As Deputy Dennis Wallace’s funeral precession left CrossPoint Community Church in Modesto, the Fire Department in Hughson sounded an alarm to alert the residents it was headed toward them.
People lined the streets on the procession route, which was decorated with blue balloons and ribbons. Children held signs for Wallace, thanking him for his service in their community. Many wore special memorial T-shirts distributed the day before.
Wallace, 53 and a 20-year veteran of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, was gunned down in the line of duty Nov. 13. David Machado is accused of shooting Wallace at the Fox Grove fishing access.
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When the procession reached Hughson, the alarm sounded again as Wallace’s hearse passed Hughon Elementary School and Hughson High School.
A man removed his hat and held his hand to his heart. Children waved.
On the fence in front of the elementary school hung letters from students who’d met Wallace during Red Ribbon Week. He’d let the kids sit in his patrol car, he was funny, he kept them safe, the letters read. One boy said he was glad the “bad guy went to jail.”
“Some of the younger kids, they don’t quite understand what is going on, but they know that something big has happened in the community,” said Meredith Jaureguy, a paraeducator for kindergartners.
She brought her owns kids to the procession route so they all could honor Wallace for his commitment and his sacrifice.
That’s why many people came, out of respect, such as teacher’s aide Nini Sullivan.
“You can see it just has a big impact for such a small community,” she said. “You don’t have to know someone personally to see the effect they had on people.”
The lengthy procession took a full 30 minutes to get from downtown Modesto to Lakewood Memorial Park. Hundreds of law enforcement representatives, from as far away as Chicago and Montana, took part. Along the way, crowds of people stood alongside the road. The Modesto and Turlock fire departments hung an enormous American flag from their ladder trucks at 11th and I streets, and many people in downtown Modesto waved small flags distributed to the crowd.
Some who couldn’t come out in person watched the procession on The Modesto Bee’s Facebook page. Many told of their personal experiences with Wallace and their respect for him. Others were touched by the outpouring they saw.
Said April Hildago: “I didn’t even know him and I’m bawling my eyes out thinking how much this man and officer was loved and respected.”
Bee staff writers Erin Tracy, Jeff Jardine and Marijke Rowland contributed to this report.