‘Heaven ... needed a hero,’ sheriff says at funeral for deputy killed in crash

Grieving brothers eulogize fallen deputy

Memorial and funeral services were held Wednesday in Modesto and Hughson for Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Garner, who died in a patrol car crash May 13.
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Memorial and funeral services were held Wednesday in Modesto and Hughson for Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Garner, who died in a patrol car crash May 13.

Loved ones, local law enforcement colleagues and public-safety brothers and sisters from agencies near and far gathered to honor and lay to rest a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department deputy killed earlier this month.

A memorial service for Jason Garner, a nine-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, was held Tuesday morning at CrossPoint Community Church in downtown Modesto. A procession followed to his funeral service at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson.

Sheriff Adam Christianson said at the memorial service: “Heaven apparently needed a hero. Someone brave enough to carry on. ... Carry on, Deputy Garner. Carry on.”

Jason not only loved people and was loved by people, but he got to experience for himself the perfect love that is found only in Christ.

Pastor Mike Whiteford, Crosspoint Community Church

Garner and Sheriff’s Department Community Service Officer Raschel Johnson were killed in a patrol vehicle crash the morning of May 13 on Crows Landing Road. They were responding to a report of a burglary no longer in process. Garner, who was driving, lost control of the vehicle, which left the roadway, somehow ended up overturned upon a Dumpster and caught fire.

Garner’s brothers, Jared and Nathan, were among those who spoke at the memorial. “To me, Jason was my big brother. My rock and my best friend,” Jared Garner said. “He was someone who was there for you whenever you needed him.”

The body of Jason Garner arrives at CrossPoint Community Church in downtown Modesto on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Garner, a Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department deputy, was killed in a vehicle crash earlier this month. (Stanislaus County Sheriff's D

Nathan Garner said, “When I think of Jason, there are so many memories and stories that come to mind. What stands out most to me is how Jason made a path for so many things in my life ... standing here today, I really wish one of those things was public speaking.”

John Nobriga, the deputy’s best friend, took the stage with David Garner, Jason’s father. Nobriga shared a letter he wrote to Garner, whom he met in Lodi when he wanted to rent an office. They were both private investigators, and Garner also managed the office building. “You wrote up a lease for me, and from that moment forward we became friends.”

Christianson shared that he was in Washington, D.C., where he learned via text message that “something was wrong at home.” He was at the nation’s capital to honor those killed in the line of duty in 2016. “How can this be happening again?” he said. “... The flight home was the longest flight of our lives.”

I’m grateful to the community as a whole for the outpouring of support as once again we work through a tragedy at the Sheriff’s Department. ... Once again, we gather together to mourn the loss of a member of our public safety family.

Sheriff Adam Christianson

The memorial service also included a video tribute to the deputy and a performance by a singing group to which his daughter belongs. At Lakewood, the funeral included a rifle salute, helicopter flyover and ceremonial end-of-watch radio dispatch.

Garner, born in Lodi, began his law enforcement career with the Stockton Police Department, where he served as a cadet right after high school. He was a reserve with the Elk Grove Police Department and became a Stanislaus deputy in 2007.

Survivors include his wife Helen; children, Ashley, Chase, Hudson and Jackson; and parents, David and Donna Garner.

A memorial service for Johnson will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at The House Modesto church at 1601 Coffee Road. As with Garner’s, the service will be open to the public.

Afterward, a funeral procession will begin at Coffee Road and Briggsmore Avenue and make its way to Lakewood Memorial Park for the burial service.

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

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