Cpl. Pete Garcia presents scrolls with the imprint of a name plate honoring the late Chief Gary Bequette to his daughters, Diana Bequette, left, and Laura Hughes. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com
Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone opened this morning’s Memorial Ceremony for Fallen Officers with a tribute to his assistant Connie Salazar who passed away in 2016 following a courageous battle with cancer.
“Although she wasn’t an officer, we lost one of our own in Connie Salazar. For those of you who knew Connie, you know what a wonderful, dedicated person she was. Her loss was not only a loss for LAPD but for the community of Los Alamos,” Sgambellone said.
Sgambellone called Salazar “truly one of a kind” and part of the LAPD family. He said she will always be missed and that the Department is thankful for all the wonderful memories shared with her.
“Connie was a special person and we continue to miss her,” he said.
Sgambellone went on to read a tribute to former LAPD Chief Gary W. Bequette, who passed away July 22, 2016. Bequette retired from LAPD as acting chief after 22 years. His daughters, Laura Hughes and Diana Bequette were present for the ceremony which included the unveiling of their father’s name on the LAPD memorial. Cpl. Pete Garcia presented them with scrolls with the imprint of the name plate.
Sgambellone said law enforcement fatalities climbed to their highest level in five years in 2016 with the loss of 135 officers, the highest number since 2011. He said firearms-related incidents were the number one cause of death in 2016, with 64 officers shot and killed throughout the United States compared with 41 officers in 2015. He said 28 officers died in automobile accidents, 15 officers were struck and killed while outside their vehicles and 10 were killed in motorcycle crashes.
Three officers were killed in the line of duty in New Mexico in 2016 and a final roll call was conducted for them at the event.
Hatch Police Officer Jose Chavez, 33, was shot and killed Aug. 12, 2016 while conducting a traffic stop. He had served with the eight-officer Hatch Police Department for two years and is survived by his wife and two children.
Alamogordo Police Officer Clint, 33, was shot and killed Sept. 2, 2016 during a foot pursuit following a traffic stop of a wanted felon. Despite being injured, he managed to return fire and killed the subject. Corvinus had served with the Department for four and a half years and is survived by his daughter and parents.
Valencia County Deputy Sheriff Ryan Thomas, 30, was killed in a single-vehicle crash while responding to a call for service when his patrol car left the road and overturned. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy and the Colorado National Guard, and was with the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office for a year, having previously served with the Alamogordo Police Department for two years. He is survived by his wife and children.
Sgambellone said that given the adversity that faces law enforcement, it is surprising that people are still willing to wear the uniform and badge.
“I thank their families because I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not easy on the families,” he said.
He recalled the recent shooting death of Police Chief Stephen Disario of Kirkersville, Ohio, a town of only 1,000 residents.
“I bring that up because it can happen anywhere. We live in a great community, a very safe community and I hope it continues that way. Understand that when these officers go through their training, it’s all designed to keep them safe. Again, it can happen anywhere. That particular police chief had six children and another on the way,” Sgambellone said.
“So, thanks again to the families, and thank you for your support,” he said. “We enjoy great support throughout the County.”