CHP Memorial: Packed Sidewalks at Final Homecomings for Officers
With heavy hearts, hundreds of people lined the streets and highways of Fresno and Tulare Counties to pay final tributes to CHP Officers Brian Law and Juan Gonzalez.
Chris Pesut stood down the street from the Clovis Cemetery, waving her American flag moments before Officer Law was laid to rest.
"I think it's awesome," she says, about the outpouring of support.
Many parents, with young children, also looked on.
"It teaches young people respect for our law enforcement," she says.
Manuel Rangel spent more than two hours waiting along Highway 99 outside of Selma, for a glimpse of the procession taking Officer Gonzalez to his final resting place in Tulare.
Rangel did not know the officer, but said he felt the need to be there.
"I feel sorry," he says. "I give my sympathy to the family. I came up to give them moral support."
Down the road, Alphonso Morales stood in a parking lot in Kingsburg, just yards from the site of the crash that killed the two officers along Highway 99.
The two had been responding to a call of another crash, when they wrecked.
Monday afternoon, the scene was quiet, save for the traffic.
A black wreath was hanging at the nearest mile marker to the crash site on the highway.
"I want to say thank you, and hope the families can find peace," said Morales.
In Tulare County, Firefighters stood at salute on overpasses.
People gripped their cell phones, cameras, and tablets hoping to capture the procession involving hundreds of cars led by motorcycle officers, escorting the hearse carrying Officer Gonzalez.
Didia Costa looked on in sadness.
The school cafeteria worker remembers Gonzalez as a child.
"We remember him growing up with our boys," she says. "It's really sad to have him go like this."
Her friend Maria Guerrero also remembers Gonzalez as the young man who bagged her groceries.
"I remember his dark, black hair, and his nice smile. That's before we had to bag our own groceries," Guerrero said, laughing.
Costa turned to the crowd, lining Oaks and Cartmill Avenue in awe.
Some people sat in chairs.
Men, held onto canes.
Others, just sat on the sidewalk waiting for Gonzalez to return to Tulare one final time.
"It's the least Tulare can do for him, show how much we love and respect him," she says.
Jason Quirarte looked onto the crowd with curiosity.
He had a unique connection to Officer Gonzalez.
"I got a ticket from him two months ago," he says. "It feels like a privilege now to get a ticket from him. I heard him name and I got sad. He was so young."
Jennifer Karr stood near the AM/PM convenience store at the corner of Cartmill and Oaks with her two daughters.
She did not know Officer Gonzalez, but summed up the thoughts of many with just two simple words.
"Thank you," she said.