Fallen Officers Honored at Downtown Fresno's Courthouse Park

FRESNO, Calif. It is an event that is wrapped in ceremony that hangs heavy among the trees at Downtown Fresno's Courthouse Park where the granite Memorial stands.

This is where grieving loved ones join an extended law enforcement family come to remember those who died in the line of duty. That was the case in May of this year following the deaths of two officers following a shoot out in the tiny community of Minkler earlier this year.

Both Fresno County Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier and Officer Javier Bejar of the Reedley Police Department died from their wounds. Reedley Police Chief Steve Wright spoke of his deep sorrow, "It's with a great deal of sadness in my heart that I must reflect on his death but I am honored because he was such an honorable man."

Officer Bejar's widow, parents and extended family were among the large crowd. So too were deputy Wahlenmaier's wife and her family. Their loved ones will join the fifty-four fallen officers on the Memorial wall. A fitting tribute said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, "We gather to remember the valor and the sacrifices these officers and their families made to protect the rest of us."

Every year also brings loved ones of other families who know their pain. Like 29-year-old John Hissong. He never knew his father but he found his name on the wall some years ago and comes every year.

His dad, John died on the 4th of July -- 1981. He had chased a suspect down, cuffed him and then suffered a fatal heart attack. "He was an honorable guy, he did his job. I mean that's what it's all about, serving the public."

In 1981 the law enforcement family wrapped its arms around Hissong's family, "We always had people checking in on us and helping us out."

It is the same nearly 30 years later for the Wahlenmaier and Bejar families. The ultimate price deserves that respect remarked Margaret Mims, "Each officer whose names appear on the monument had that special courage and commitment to their oath to protect."

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