Carlos Vasquez said he found it difficult to speak in front of a large audience about the life of his brother, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Antonio “Tony” Hinostroza, who died recently in a car crash near Riverbank.
Vasquez said it was tough to try to encapsulate his brother’s entire life in a eulogy. But he found a way, saying one of his brother’s great attributes was meeting every challenge. It was reflective in Hinostroza’s military service, his work in law enforcement and dedication to his family and friends.
“In fact, the harder something was, the more determined he became,” Vasquez told the several hundred people who gathered in Modesto on Thursday to honor his brother’s life.
Law enforcement officials from around the Northern San Joaquin Valley attended the memorial service at The House on Coffee Road to pay their respects to Hinostroza, 45, who on Nov. 25 was on his way to help deputies involved in a chase in Riverbank before he died in a wreck.
Hinostroza’s patrol car hit a traffic-signal pole at Terminal Avenue and Claribel Road shortly before 10 p.m. The suspected drunk driver the deputies were chasing was captured and is facing prosecution.
Stanislaus Sheriff Adam Christianson said Hinostroza was an example of the numerous deputies and officers in law enforcement throughout the country who risk their lives to help others.
“Deputy Tony Hinostroza served his country, his community and the sheriff’s office with honor and distinction; daring to do the hard things, committed to his chosen profession and willing to go to dark and desperate places no one else is willing to go,” Christianson told the audience at the memorial service.
Also in attendance were state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll, Stanislaus County District Attorney General Birgit Fladager and members of the Stanislaus Superior Court bench.
Hinostroza enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1992 when he was 18 years old; serving four years in active duty and another four years as a reserve. He served in a variety of roles, including as a member of an anti-terrorism reactionary force, security for Naval Intelligence and squad leader for special operations unit.
After his military service, Hinostroza worked as an emergency dispatcher before he enrolled in the police academy. Christianson said Hinostroza first worked for the then Waterford Police Department before being hired by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department; first as a reserve in 1998 and then as a sworn-in full-time deputy in 1999.
In the Sheriff’s Department, Hinostroza worked as a patrol deputy, a member of the SWAT team, an investigator with the street gang unit, a member of security staff at the Stanislaus Superior Court and a K-9 handler with his canine partner “Max.”
Sgt. Mario Moreno first met Hinostroza while on the SWAT team. He said Hinostroza loved his job, and worked hard to improve. He said Hinostroza was known “to burn his own vacation time to pay his way through a training course” if he knew it would build his skills.
His fellow deputies had a variety of nicknames for Hinostroza, which included shorter versions of his last name. But the nickname that got the most reaction was “Hollywood.”
“Regardless of what mood I was in, this would always make me laugh,” Moreno told the audience in the Modesto church. “He always knew how to make people laugh. I’ll miss that.”
His friends and family said Hinostroza was loyal and an intense listener, who could convey a lot with his exaggerated facial expressions. His brother smiled while remembering how much Hinostroza loved Midori sour cocktails, maybe too much for a grown man. Vasquez also remembered Hinostroza’s big hugs, embraces that felt like he would never let go.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Delgado bonded with Hinostroza when they were both members of Stanislaus sheriff’s gang investigations unit. He said Hinostroza was at the forefront of strategic planning, always making sure each enforcement operation was successful and safe.
Hinostroza’s colleagues also remembered how he was always well-prepared for a long training session or a call for service that would require a lot of waiting around. They said he would inevitably pull out a burrito or pizza slice from a cargo pocket to munch on.
Delgado said Hinostroza always set the mood with hip-hop music, such as Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise,” in his car, when the investigators would head out Friday nights for gang suppression.
“Gangsters thought we were the coolest cops, because we listened to old-school and oldies and hip-hop,” Delgado told the audience.
Hinostroza received six awards from the California Highway Patrol for his work as a deputy recovering stolen vehicles. Christianson said Hinostroza recovered 22 stolen vehicles with auto theft suspects inside, which are called “Rolling Stolens.” Those recoveries resulted in 29 arrests over a two-year period. He also recovered 48 abandoned stolen vehicles.
The sheriff acknowledged in the audience Hinostroza’s mother, Gloria, and his son, Michael, telling them “You will always be part of our family.”
Christianson named the six Sheriff’s Department officials — including Hinostroza — who have died in the line of duty since December 2011.
“Words alone can never express the pain and anguish over what’s happened,” Christianson said about Hinostroza’s death. “Time will once again heal our pain, and we’ll never, ever forget Tony’s sacrifice.”