We remember and honor Visalia police officer James John Rapozo

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For Visalia Police Captain Brian Winter, it's hard to believe two decades have passed since his friend and fellow officer, James Rapozo, died in the line of duty. (KFSN)

For Visalia Police Captain Brian Winter, it's hard to believe two decades have passed since his friend and fellow officer, James Rapozo, died in the line of duty. Because he says, it feels like it was just yesterday.

Captain Brian Winter of the Visalia Police Department said, "I guess I was one of those that believed it could just never happen here as well, and unfortunately that day it did."

On January ninth, 1998, Winter and Rapozo were part of the Visalia Police SWAT Team that served a high-risk search warrant at an apartment on South Central Street, looking for a suspect in gang-related Christmas Eve shootings.

During the raid, that suspect shot Rapozo under the arm, above his bulletproof vest. Other officers shot and killed the suspect but Rapozo later died at the hospital.

He left behind a wife and two young children. Winter says the department stays in touch with his family; it's been great to see his kids grow up.

Corcoran police confirm his son Max is an officer with their department.

"James was a family man who happened to be a police officer and not a police officer that happened to be a family man."

Rapozo was the second Visalia police officer killed in the line of duty, the first in more than fifty years.

The tragedy forever changed the agency, which continues to grow in size but today's officers know they face some of the same dangers Rapozo did.

"It's a constant reminder and we do our best to never let James' memory and the incident and the experience that happened be forgotten and we try to pass that along to all new officers as they come onto the force and hope that those lessons learned will keep them safe in the future," Winter said.

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