My brother’s gone. I didn’t actually know him. We’d never met. I didn’t know he was married with kids. My brother and I had different last names and different parents. We hailed from different parts of the world. Despite everything, he was still my brother.
Friday, July 29, 2016. I woke to the radio news. The talking heads always provided the daily weather report that helps decide my wardrobe. It was just another routine day. Then, I heard an announcement that pierced me like a rusty kitchen knife: “An SDPD officer fell in the line of duty overnight……”
In disbelief I spun the radio dial to yet another station. They reported, “The officer had passed.”
I uttered a loud expletive. Tears welled up. Questions flooded my mind. What happened? Who was it? Did I know them?
Then it occurred to me. Sorry Mr. Newscaster, the officer didn’t “fall” nor did he “pass.” Fallen implies clumsy. Passing sounds peaceful. Like every cop who has their life violently stolen, Officer Jonathan De Guzman didn’t fall he was MURDERED.
It matters little if I actually knew him. We’re brothers because we’re in the same profession. That makes him family.
Murder’s an ugly word. It should be. It describes the ultimate evil act. Such an ugly word is reserved for ugly people who do ugly things. Stealing someone’s life is ugly. Don’t sugarcoat it.
Like previous times in my career, I drove to work with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart. I’ll never forget walking into my office to the somber faces of some of SDPD’s most senior people. Despite their experience with the worst life can sometimes offer, we all shared the same expression. They too had lost their brother.
I remember Officer Jerry Hartless when he was a trainee in the late 80’s. I ribbed him about his name and the flack he’d get whenever he took enforcement action. He laughed, as if he hadn’t heard my dumb joke thousands of times.
I was working January 9, 1988, when Jerry was shot. He lingered in a coma for 22 days before succumbing to a senseless murder. It was a blow I hoped my beloved department would never experience again. Wishful thinking.
Officer Ron Davis was murdered in the line of duty of September 17, 1991.
Officer Chris Wilson was murdered in the line of duty on October 28, 2010. I still felt the loss.
In August of 2011, Officer Jeremy Henwood was murdered shortly after buying a box of cookies for a young African –American teen. It’s funny how “community activists” never mention his kindness as they eagerly vilify all cops as racists.
Perhaps the mercy of time dulls the pain of those previous murders. This murder will be different.
When my four brothers were murdered there wasn’t a national movement of people expending all their energy to vilify police while ignoring the holocaust of young inner city men caught up in gang violence and dying for a lifestyle glorified in movies, music and fashion.
Where did society go so askew we now vilify our protectors? The closest I can remember is how we treated our military during Vietnam. Fifty years ago there were violent riots across America as young people demanded peace. Apparently no one saw the irony. Now, half a century later, we collectively regret it. Will we learn the same lesson here?
Shortly after the announcement of yet another police officer murdered I couldn’t help but wonder if there would be protest marches proclaiming “police lives matter”? Would young people, often recycled ones from other protests, grab signs and block freeway traffic only this time demanding a stop to the onslaught of police?
I’ve been in this profession too long to linger on such ridiculous notions. Selected outrage is the national trend and many in the media and elected office passively encourage it.
Life will go on in the SDPD but we won’t be better for it. Soon, letters that spell “Jonathan De Guzman” will be carved in the granite memorial outside SDPD headquarters and his picture will reside forever in the San Diego Police Museum.
As with Jerry Hartless, Ronald W. Davis, Chris Wilson and Jeremy Henwood, all cops who were murdered during my SDPD tenure, time will pass. As it does, please remember Jonathan De Guzman was my brother. If you work in this profession, regardless of your title and your duties, he was your brother too. You didn’t have to know him personally to feel the loss. Our nation mourns a hero. Even as some have their priorities so far out of whack they don’t know they should.