A cross placed in memory of Stanislaus County sheriff's Deputy Dennis Wallace near where he was shot a year ago no longer stands, but it's not clear whether a vandal or Mother Nature is to blame.
The cross stood along Geer Road at the entrance to Fox Grove Park, but on Saturday, passers-by saw it was gone.
Given that a sign at the Hughson soccer fields named in the slain deputy's honor was defaced last month, many in the community figured the cross's removal also was malicious.
"It breaks my heart to see how someone can get satisfaction from destroying a memorial. ... It will stand again and this doesn't destroy the memories!" Debbie Espejo Kennedy wrote on the Facebook page titled "Deputy Dennis Wallace — In Loving Memory." Other comments expressed similar thoughts.
Hughson City Manager Raul Mendez said a deputy with Hughson Police Services found the cross on the ground near where it stood. The cross was broken at its base, though it's unclear whether someone snapped it or if recent foul weather took it down, he said. Other than the break, "it's in good shape," Mendez said.
The cross was put in place within a few days of Wallace being fatally shot the morning of Nov. 13, 2016, while checking a stolen van at the Fox Grove fishing access. Amanda Young, an organizer of the "A Hero Remembered" event to mark the one-year anniversary of Wallace's death, said flowers have been placed regularly at the cross. Last Christmas, it was adorned with a wreath, and a Christmas tree was put at its side, she said.
Mark Smith, who quickly began making a replacement cross when the first was noticed missing, told The Bee, "it stood strong for the past year through the storms and everything else, which leads us to believe it was purposely damaged, like the memorial signs at the fields.
"I was not the original maker of the cross, (but) regardless of how the cross came down, I spoke with the property owner to make sure I can put up another cross. We will not forget him or allow his memory to go away. "
Hughson Police Services Chief Larry Seymour has talked with Wallace's widow, Mercedes, and brother, Dave, about what they would like to see happen with the cross and a memorial banner that hangs in Hughson, said Mendez. "Whether they want to take ownership of those things or keep them up in the community as a reminder," he said.