Leather, Steel and Funds for Fallen Officers

FRESNO, Calif. The annual Central California Memorial Motorcycle run started in the South Valley and covered nearly 100 miles. More than 700 bikers from around the state paid to participate in Saturday's event, the largest yet.

It was a perfect day to travel through the Central Valley and while many of the bikers enjoyed the scenery they reflected on the recent loss of officers like Javier Bejar and Sheriff's Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier.

The 7th annual Central California Memorial Motorcycle Run started off with traditional bag pipes and the reading of the names of officers killed in the line of duty. "Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier. End of watch February 25th," the Chaplin said.

The 25th proved to be a dark day for law enforcement in the Central Valley after a shootout in Minkler. Reedley police officer Javier Bejar was also killed in that standoff.

The money raised from this event directly benefits families of fallen officers like Wahlenmaier and Bejar.

Rider John Ieronimo from Armona said, "It's about the families. They're gonna get taken care of and cared for. "It's a great thing. It helps support our local police. Helps support family members," said Scott Young a rider from Lemoore.

And rider Alysia Marquez-Padilla from Madera said, "We really really made an effort to clear our calendars so we could come."

The sea of black leather and steel filled most of Highway 99 as it 'chopped' through small Central Valley towns. The course was already set to run through Minkler this year. Police, fire and E.M.S. crews turned on their lights and greeted everyone who passed by.

Some pulled over to see where the officers lost their lives. Charles Almerez from Fresno said, "The road that Javier was taking, he took the same road to get here and we're driving on the same road and 'Wally's' last moments there.

Two hours and 92 miles later riders ended the course at Millerton Lake greeted by a large U.S. flag. The Air National Guard flew in a Blackhawk helicopter to show support as well.

Organizers said it is too soon to determine how much money was raised from Saturday's event. The proceeds also benefit families of fallen officers in 14 other Central California counties.

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