LAPD honors officers killed in 2016

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By Sarah von Sternberg

Los Alamos Police Department staff, family, friends and community members gathered Monday morning in the Justice Center’s parking lot to honor and remember those who had lost their lives over the past year, including three police officers from New Mexico.

Police Chief Dino Sgambellone began the ceremony by welcoming those in attendance and also recognizing a recent loss from the community.

“Although she wasn’t a police officer, we lost one of our own last year, Connie Salazar,” Sgambellone said. “For those of you who knew Connie, you know what a wonderful and giving person that she was.”

Salazar was fighting a courageous battle against cancer and passed away in 2016. She was employed by the county for over 20 years and had recently retired. “Connie was part of our family and will always be missed. We are thankful for all of the wonderful memories we shared.” Sgambellone iterated that her loss will be felt by not only the LAPD, but also all of Los Alamos and asked for a moment of silence on Salazar’s behalf.

Sgambellone motioned to the memorials behind him and explained that they represent two things. One memorial represents Los Alamos county citizens who went onto a career in law enforcement in another jurisdiction and were killed in the line of duty. The other memorial represented former Los Alamos police officers that have since passed on.

“Today we’re going to honor one of those that passed last July 2016, Gary Bequette,” said Sgambellone, and gave a brief summary of Bequette’s life. He was born in Nebraska and moved to Los Alamos in 1951. Bequette was a long time resident of Los Alamos and was very active in the community, including involvement in sports, boy scouts, girl scouts and the LA Posse Fair and Rodeo, just to name a few. As a police officer, he coordinated the first Senior Appreciation Night in 1984. Sgambellone continued, “Gary retired from LAPD as acting chief after 22 years of service,” and then retired to South Carolina with his wife, Cheryl.

Sgambellone recognized the family members of Gary Bequette in attendance, daughters Diana Bequette and Laura Hughes, and gave them etchings of the memorial with Bequette’s newly added name.

In 2016, law enforcement agencies lost 145 police officers in the line of duty, including three here in New Mexico. Deputy Sheriff Ryan Sean Thomas, of Valencia County, was killed in an automobile accident on Dec 6, 2016. Police Officer Clint E. Corvinus, of Alamogordo Police Department, was shot and killed in pursuit of a suspect on September 2, 2016. Police officer Jose Ismael Chavez, of Hatch Police Department, was shot and killed while conducting traffic stop on August 12, 2016.

Sgambellone then mentioned that LAPD had the privilege of swearing in three new officers. “As I near the end of my career, I look upon those officers and their families with pride.” Considering the adversity in law enforcement lately, Sgambellone is proud that people are still willing to choose this as a career and wear the uniform with honor. “And I thank their families as well because, I can tell you from personal experience, it’s not easy on the family.”

According to Sgambellone, there have been 48 officers already killed in the line of duty this year, which includes the police chief of a town with less than 1,000 people.

During National Police Week, the community is invited to bring their car by the LAPD parking lot between 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and staff will put a thin blue line on the back of their vehicle to show support for law enforcement. National Police Week is this week.