Students from Westminster’s Westmont Elementary School submitted essays on why it’s important to remember fallen officers.
Fourth-grader Allie Espinosa, fourth-grader Sherlin Clara and fifth-grader Jesse Garcia were selected to read their essays as part of Westminster Police Department’s Memorial Ceremony on May 24, held in front of agency headquarters, adjacent to the fallen officers memorial.
“Police officers are the most important people in the world except for moms and dads.”
“If we didn’t have police officers, the world would be a dangerous place.”
“They risk their lives for ours.”
“Sometimes they die when they are serving justice.”
Their sentiments were echoed throughout the ceremony, which honored fallen officers in general as well as the three who died while serving Westminster: Lt. Ronald W. Weber, Officer Steven L. Phillips and Sgt. Marcus Frank.
WPD Chief Ralph Ornelas began the ceremony by presenting a bouquet of flowers to each of the fallen officer’s families, seated in the audience.
“When a police officer is murdered, it’s an attack on the entire society,” Ornelas said to the audience.
He said that we all need to work together as a community to support police.
“What I love most about this profession of law enforcement is that we are a family,” he said.
Commander Al Panella recalled Phillips’ jokes and uplifting attitude.
“Steve had a knack of finding something funny in everything he did,” he said.
Weber gave Panella invaluable advice.
“I know of no one who didn’t deeply respect him,” he said.
This year marks 10 years since Frank’s passing.
“He was one of the most focused investigators I ever knew,” he said.
Keynote speakers Gina Osborne and Brian Riley, who worked with Frank while they were in the FBI, talked about his strong work ethic, as well as his zest for giving them a hard time.
“As a brand-new agent, working with Marcus Frank impacted me significantly,” Osborne said.
Riley said: “I just learned more in two hours sitting with Marcus Frank than any academy class.
“Obviously, Marcus is near and dear to my heart because I sat next to him and caught his crap every day,” he said, sparking laughter among attendees.
The ceremony followed the memorial ride that culminated earlier that day with 30 riders from WPD, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Anaheim Police Department cycling in relay-style down from Sacramento as a fundraiser/remembrance for fallen officers and their families.
“I can tell you, it’s no leisurely ride in the park,” Panella said. “The arduous ride serves to honor those who without hesitation gave their lives for others.
“They did it to keep the memories of Steve, Ron and Marcus alive.”