Minkler shootout one year later

MINKLER, Calif.

Fresno County Sheriff Detective, Joel Wahlenmaier, and Reedley Police Officer, Javier Bejar, died during a shootout in Minkler.

Wahlenmaier had been serving a search warrant on an arson suspect, and bejar was one of the officers called out to assist once things turned violent.

Fresno County Sheriff's Homicide Detectives met in Minkler at the place every one of their lives changed February 25th of last year.

Each detective has vivid memories of that day and their desperate attempts to save their co-worker and friend, Joel Wahlenmaier.

Robert McEwen pulled Joel out of the trailer after he was shot, Friday he tried to focus on the happier moments, like their times together on the search and rescue team. "Sometimes we'd work 20 straight hours and trying to keep up with him was hard but I enjoyed his company and he had a lot of funny things to say."

At the place Reedley Police Officer Javier Bejar was shot to death, a white cross and flowers were placed to remember the Marine. Bejar had been called out to assist after Wahlenmaier was shot. That's when the suspect used a powerful scope to take his life.

Reedley Police Chief Steve Wright says moving forward has been difficult. "The pain is still just as significant as it was that day. Everybody in my department feels like this just happened yesterday. And all of the feelings are still there so we are still going through a lot of emotion; we are going through a lot of pain and grief."

At Reedley College, where Joel attended, a Giant Sequoia was planted in his honor. Joel loved nature and so many felt the tree was fitting and symbolic.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said, "This tree will grow strong, sturdy and tall, just like Joel. The difference is, Joel will not have a long life like this tree, and it was cut short."

Joel's parents also attended the tree planting. His mother says the past year has been a time of trial. But she is comforted knowing her son is without pain.

Joel's mother, Patsy Wahlenmaier said, "You just have to learn to adjust to the vacancy in your life and it's not easy but you have to. And we know he's with god and we have no problem with that. He was a very very good man and we were very proud of him. And continue to be."

A scholarship in honor of Detective Wahlenmaier has also been created to help forestry students at Reedley College. Friday, a $1 thousand check was presented to the scholarship fund.

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