Community remembers Merced police officer killed in line of duty 20 years ago

Vince Ybarra Image
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Community remembers Merced officer killed in line of duty 20 years ago
Family members and fellow law enforcement officers gathered in Merced Monday morning to pay tribute to an officer who died 20 years ago in the line of duty.

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- On April 15, 2004, Officer Gray was gunned down during a routine traffic stop in Merced.

On Monday, dozens of officers gathered outside the Merced police station to remember the fallen officer's life and commitment to the community.

At the time of his death, Officer Gray had been an officer with the police department for about seven years. He left behind a wife and three young children.

"He has missed out on every middle school, high school and college graduation of all three of our children," said his wife, Michelle.

She said sometimes, it feels like time is at a standstill when she thinks of her husband's death.

"Our whole world just kind of unraveled and I didn't understand. I still went in, I sat on the gurney with him for hours before I let them take him away because I knew that I would never see him again, so I laid in the gurney with him. It was my way of saying goodbye," said Michelle.

She has made it her life's mission to help others who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.

Officer Gray was born in Tulare, raised in Hanford and attended Hanford High School. Administrators at the time said he was a good student and a standout athlete.

The officer's kindness is something his friend, Walter Smith, will always remember.

"He'd buy me groceries. He looked out for me. He was more than just an officer. He was part of the community, he really looked out and he cared," said Smith.

Gray's youngest daughter, Cameron, was two years old at the time of his death. She says she remembers her father through family stories.

"It makes me proud that he was such a genuine person, that the department has fond memories of him and the people of Merced have good memories of him," said Cameron.

The man convicted of killing Officer Gray, Tao Rivera was sentenced to death row in 2007.

Rivera is serving his sentence at San Quentin Prison.

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