Megan Maxwell attends the Kern County Peace Officers’ Memorial nearly every year.
And Thursday’s ceremony was no exception.
Her father, CHP Officer Richard Maxwell, was shot and killed on July 11, 1994, she said following the annual ceremony held in front of the Kern County Law Enforcement Memorial in downtown Bakersfield.
“I really enjoy the atmosphere of family and community, everyone coming together for the same reason, to remember and honor those who gave their lives in the line of duty,” she said.
The event, hosted by the California Highway Patrol, was attended by scores of CHP officers, Kern County Sheriff’s deputies and officers from the Bakersfield Police Department, as well as families of the fallen, professionals who work in the courts and members of the general public.
CHP Capt. Levi Miller welcomed attendees to the midday ceremony with words of honor and praise for those who have died in the line of duty.
“On Peace Officer Memorial Week, we recognize and honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women whose devotion to duty brings honor to our system of justice and makes our communities in America a better place,” Miller said.
Kern County’s first recorded death in the line of duty was Tehachapi Constable Richard S. Mettler, who was shot and killed while attempting to serve an arrest warrant, Miller said. The man who killed him was a member of a gang of desperados led by Tiburcio Vasquez, one of California’s most notorious bandits.
“Since then, Kern County has suffered through 52 in-the- line-of-duty deaths of our local and state law enforcement family,” he told the gathering.
That sense of family that exists between law enforcement agencies is one of the great aspects of working in the profession locally, said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
“This particular ceremony is, I think, the fourth one today … but this one is most important,” Youngblood said. “This one shows the unity that your law enforcement officers have in this county with each other. And it doesn’t exist everywhere. It’s really special in our county.
“And when we lose an officer in the line of duty, it is one of those situations that stays with you for your entire career.”
As the ceremony continued, the Kern County Sheriff’s Honor Guard performed a rifle salute in honor of all peace officers in Kern County who lost their lives in the line of duty. The rifle salute was followed by a flyover by two helicopters, one from the CHP and the other with the sheriff’s office.
Even the Bakersfield Fire Department participated at the Truxtun Avenue location, by flying a large American flag from an engine’s extended ladder.
Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry thanked those who made the ultimate sacrifice. But he also directed his remarks to the families who lost loved ones.
“It is our duty to honor them and remember their sacrifice,” Terry said.
“To the families of the fallen,” he said, “thank you for your support. Thank you for allowing your loved ones to serve.
“We will never forget your service or your sacrifice.”
Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.
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