Our View: Fresno CHP officers’ deaths show how dangerous their work can be

February 18, 2014 


A mangled pickup truck on the scene on southbound Highway 99 in Kingsburg where two CHP officers were killed in a vehicle accident on Feb. 17, 2014.


If your car has ever broken down on a state highway in the middle of the night, perhaps you already know the relief you feel when those blue flashing lights appear and a dark sedan pulls in behind you. Not only has help arrived, but you’ve been transported from that dark, dangerous, lonely place to a place of relative safety.

That’s part of what the California Highway Patrol does for us. They make us feel safe.

Tragically, that dedication to our safety can sometimes come at a terrible, terrible cost.

Two young highway patrol officers – Juan Gonzalez and Brian Law – lost their lives early Monday morning trying to keep Californians safe. They were responding to a report of an accident on the highway. Someone needed help, and they were on their way.

In the darkness, they swerved to avoid pedestrians who had been involved in an accident, lost control of their cruiser and went into a highway sign. Both were killed.

Gonzalez was 33 and single. Law, 34, was married and had three children. They had been in the same California Highway Patrol Academy class, became friends, and then were partnered in the CHP Fresno office. They were the first Fresno CHP officers to die in the line of duty in 50 years. Their names were added to a sad list of officers who have died in the line of duty that has now grown to 229.

They were the 25th and 26th officers to die during the month of February, making it the deadliest month for CHP officers. It was also the seventh time partners had been killed in the line of duty. The last time two officers died on the same day was in June, 2010, but they were killed in separate incidents. This appears to be the first time that two CHP officers died in what could be classified as an automobile accident.

CHP, along with all law enforcement officers, go into each and every day knowing there are risks on the highway or in the air. Anything can happen. They can be shot at, their vehicles can crash, they can be intentionaly run down, out-of-control drunks can plow into them, the road can give way beneath their vehicles. All of these things have cost CHiPs their lives.

For most of us, the sight of a CHP patrol cruiser pulling into view is rarely a cause for concern. We might check our speedometer, but usually we’re happy that they’ve got other things to do. Often, those “other things” involve helping someone in need. Occasionally, those other things are difficult and dangerous.

The deaths of Officer Gonzalez and Officer Law sadly illustrate how dangerous it can be.

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