In honor of National Police Week (May 15-21), we’re sharing the stories of the 53 police officers and deputies who have given their lives serving Orange County.
Some have died as a result of gunfire and violence. Others have died as a result of accidents or illness directly related to their service.
When possible, I’ve also included notes left on the Officer Down Memorial page from family members and coworkers. All of the pictures are from the Orange County Peace Officer Memorial Site.
On July 23, 1872, Constable Lehman was shot and killed after responding to a dispute between an off-duty deputy city marshal and a civilian over a card game. As Constable Lehman was arriving, a gunfight began between the city marshal and the civilian and Constable Lehman was struck. He died two days later from his wounds.
On Dec. 16, 1912, a posse was formed in response to a young Irvine girl who had been attacked by a drifter who had fled into the hills.
A group of local law enforcement officers and farmers cornered the suspect in the Tomato Springs area (the area is now known as Portola Springs).
The suspect taunted the men and ran off into the foothills. Squires caught up to the suspect and both fired at close range. Undersheriff Squires was killed.
The suspect held the officers at bay until mid-morning when the posse was now over 200, including a National Guard company. A group charged the suspect and after an exchange of gunfire the suspect was found deceased. Speculation is he may have taken his own life.
The “Tomato Springs Bandit” was later identified as Joe Matlock from Eugene, Ore.
Officer Matthews was an Orange County Traffic Squad motorcycle officer in April 1924. The Orange County Traffic Squad was comprised of county employees hired to handle traffic problems in all areas of the county. The unit later was absorbed by the California Highway Patrol.
On the afternoon of May 8, 1924, Matthews was on duty traveling south on Main Street at the intersection of Camile when he struck a car crossing in front of him.
Matthews was transported to Orange County Hospital where he had his foot amputated. Gangrene soon settled in and on May 12, 1924 Officer Matthews died during surgery.
According to accounts from the Orange County Register, Officer Matthews was “escorted by a squadron of motorcycle officers, including virtually all of the state and city officers on duty in the county led the hearse to Whittier.” (Santa Ana Register, May 12, 1924).
Matthews was the first motorcycle officer to be killed in the line of duty in Orange County.
Officer Lauren Hurd was a state traffic officer. He was injured in a motorcycle accident at Main and Delhi in November 1925 when a vehicle pulled out of a driveway in front of him. Sixteen months later, he went to Los Angeles for surgery to repair a break in his arm that was not healing. He passed away while recovering from surgery, possibly due to the anesthesia.
Officer Leo Darst was a police officer for only one week when he was killed in an accident on Main Street, near Farquhar Park. His partner lost control of the police unit in rainy weather and struck an oncoming vehicle.
Officer Edwin R. Jensen was chasing a speeding vehicle on East First Street in Santa Ana when he was involved in an accident on Feb. 28, 1931. He sustained severe head injuries and succumbed to his injuries on March 3, 1931. Officer Jensen had been a police officer only 13 months.
Deputies Ezra Stanley and Carl Pryor were patrolling along Pacific Coast Highway between Sunset Beach and Huntington Beach when their car was struck from behind by a drunk driver.
Deputy Stanley was unconscious and trapped in the car. The vehicle burst into flames and despite the efforts of Deputy Pryor he could not free his partner. Deputy Stanley’s death was described by the Coroner’s jury as “being burned to a char while in the discharge of his duties as a Deputy Sheriff.”
On Feb. 13, 1953, Officer French was booking a suspect on forgery charges into the Laguna Beach City Jail. The suspect drew a concealed weapon and attempted to leave the building. French attempted to prevent his escape. The suspect fired one round that struck Officer French in the stomach. He was transported to Hoag Hospital by his coworkers but did not survive.
The suspect escaped and fled to Dana Point, where he committed suicide.
Officer Camile Madere was killed when his motorcycle struck a truck while he was on patrol. The truck pulled out in front of him from a side street, causing him to slide under the truck.
This is a note from Officer Madere’s son left on the Officer Down Memorial page.
Today is November 12th 2011.
It has been 53 years since you passed away.
There has not been a day that I have not missed you.
Mom joined you at 52 years old and Tessie Ann your first
daughter at 28 years. Kathleen my twin is also with you
for she passed at 29 years.
I am now 63 and have taken after you in most things.
You know something Dad?
I am proud to be your son.
Charles E. Madere
November 12, 2011
On April 21, 1958, Patrol Deputies Ed Johnson and Robert Shultz stopped an old converted school bus from Arizona on information it contained a mentally disturbed father threatening his wife, daughter and two sons.
The deputies stopped the bus near Dana Point and started getting the family off the bus. As they did so, the man, his 11-year-old son, and his 14-year-old son opened fire on the officers. Deputy Shultz was struck by a round and killed, and his partner was wounded. Both officers managed to return fire, wounding the trio. The wounded father then shot and killed both his sons and then himself.
On Oct. 6, 1959, Officer Trapp and his partner responded to a call of a suspect who had fired his rifle twice at a road crew working outside of his home because he was annoyed that they were interrupting his televised baseball game. While Sgt. Trapp attempted to talk the suspect into surrendering via a PA system, another officer went around the house to the front door. Sgt. Trapp saw the armed suspect approach the door and rushed to warn the officer. The suspect fired through the door. The shot passed through the officer and struck Sgt. Trapp, fatally wounding him.
The suspect was convicted of second-degree murder.
The following note is from the Officer Down Memorial Page:
Myron was my training officer and I was there when he died. He was the most respected officer there in the early days of the birth of the dept. His funeral was one of the saddest days of my life. I will remember always.
EX-GARDEN GROVE P.D.
December 30, 2008
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.