Tulare County Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony honors fallen heroes

Kassandra Gutierrez Image
Wednesday, May 8, 2024
Tulare County Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony honors fallen heroes
An emotional ceremony Wednesday honored the lives of dozens of fallen police officers.

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- An emotional ceremony today honored the lives of dozens of fallen police officers.

The annual Tulare County Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony occurred at the Peace Officer Memorial near Burrel Avenue and Woodland Street in Visalia.

The 30 fallen officers on the Peace Officers Memorial were honored today.

Officers and loved ones laid these flowers down one by one.

We spoke to the surviving wife of Officer James Rapozo.

"I can remember that day vividly, everything we did; we took down Christmas dawns that morning, ran errands, then he had the page for SWAT, then we had to go home. He had to get his patrol car and go," says Merrily Rapozo Wilson.

She recalls the last day she and her two children spent with her husband, James Rapozo.

It was January 9th, 1998... Merrily and her children drove behind James, and said a prayer

"I asked God to bring him home safely, so I was mad for a while until somebody said to me, 'God did bring him home, just not the one you wanted," expresses Merrily.

James was 33 and worked for the Visalia Police Department SWAT team.

He was shot while responding to a call and later died at the hospital.

Merrily remembers, "When I got there, I could see the sea of blue, and I knew I was very proud of him. And then my next thought was, 'What do I tell the kids?'"

Her son and daughter were 4 and 6 at the time.

His brothers and sisters in blue stepped in to help.

Twenty-six years later, they're still there.

James is among the 30 officers honored Wednesday morning at the Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony.

The ceremony included an End of Watch call and a riderless horse symbolizing the fallen heroes.

"It's really important for families to understand that the loved one will no longer be here, no longer sitting at the dinner table and enjoying their little ones' sports games, that we are there for them and we care for them," says Tulare County Sheriff, Mike Boudreaux.

The ceremony hits home for Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux; those close to him have also made the ultimate sacrifice for their community.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux was working on the SWAT team the day Rapozo was killed.

He finds comfort in the community's support and watching James' son follow in his father's footsteps.

"My son dove right in after his father and works for a county sheriff's department, and he is a K-9 and SWAT, and he is a training officer, and he looks exactly like his dad; my daughter is a teacher, I'm very proud of her," Merrily shares.

Wednesday's ceremony comes ahead of National Peace Officers Memorial Day, which is on May 15.

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