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Fallen officers honored at annual event

Crowds at Valencia Town Center remembre those slain in active service

Posted: August 17, 2008 9:52 p.m.
Updated: October 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Wendy Bentley, left, Donna Cottone, center, and Marcelle Murr gear up before the 13th annual Downed Officer Support Ride at the Valencia Town Center on Sunday. These ladies have supported the ride for over four years.

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With a crowd of around 1,000 people watching, Sgt. Tony Arnold of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department stood before the microphone and, one by one, read the names of 26 fallen officers.

The more than 1,000 motorcycle riders, law enforcement officials and their supporters listened quietly as Arnold gave the name, unit information and date of death for each person.

Sixteen were firefighters and 10 were members of law enforcement.

In the background, an American flag hung from Fire Station 126's ladder truck.

It was for those 26 people and all the slain officers before them that the crowd gathered on Sunday at Westfield Valencia Town Center as part of the 13th annual Downed Officer Support Ride, deemed by event organizers to be the largest law enforcement motorcycle event in Southern California.

The event centered around a 100-mile poker run that began at the mall and ended at Mann Biomedical Park in the Rye Canyon Business Park.

Along with remembering the fallen officers, Neil Fischer, a volunteer with the SCV Sheriff's Station and one of the coordinators of the event, said the ride raised money for the Downed Officers Support Foundation, which aids the families of law enforcement and firefighters who have been slain or injured while in active service.

Funds, which Fischer said have topped $1 million over the 13-year history of the ride, also go towards assisting families with expenses that relate to catastrophic diseases.

Along with the roll call, Arnold, who was the main speaker at the morning service, highlighted statistics that show a decrease in the number of downed peace officers this year.

He said there has been a 42 percent decline in deaths, or 50 officers fewer, when compared to this time last year.

However, California is the second highest state in the nation for the total number of deaths of officers in the line of duty, which prompted Arnold to emphasize the importance of safety.

"The bottom line is we all control our own destiny," he said. "So keep safe."

The morning brought a mix of speakers, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca, Mike Brown, deputy secretary for the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore and Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar, who offered their perspectives about the duties of officers and firefighters.

While addressing the roll call of fallen officers, Moore said, "None of them should be on that list. I look forward to the day when we add no new names to the scroll."

Kellar spoke on behalf of Santa Clarita.

Calling the city of Santa Clarita "fire and police country," he expressed his appreciation for the large crowd of supporters.

He then added, "But the list is still too long."

The event was highlighted by actor Erik Estrada, a law enforcement supporter and former star of "CHiPS."
"Cops have always been my hero," said Estrada, who serves as a reserve officer.

After their 100-mile journey, the motorcycle riders gathered at Mann Biomedical Park to relax on the grassy lawns and eat lunch with friends.

As lunch time rolled around, the roaring sound of motorcycles grew as riders turned the final corner to park their shiny bikes alongside the curb.

One rider, who identifies himself as Mark T., had just finished his trip.

The Granada Hills resident said he has participated in the event seven times.

Each ride has been his way to show his appreciation for peace officers.

He believes it takes a special kind of person to assume the role as a cop or firefighter.

"It's a thankless job," he said.

David Clodfelter of Simi Valley was off his bike and getting ready to get lunch.

Sunday marked the second time that he had participated in the event.

Clodfelter, who rode with the Simi Valley Hog Chapter, decided to participate in the ride as a way to show his support for the efforts of peace officers.

"That's what keeps us from being back in the Stone Ages," he said of the efforts.


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