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Tragedy Strikes San Diego Police Department

Aired 8/10/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

San Diego Police are dealing with recent deaths in their department -- we hear from an Assistant Chief on how they're coping.

Officer Jeremy Henwood
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Above: Officer Jeremy Henwood

In the past year four San Diego Police officers have tragically died, three in the past three weeks. Officer Jeremy Henwood, a former Marine died over the weekend and will be buried on Friday, Officer David Hall, a 14-year-veteran of the force, took his own life and child abuse detective Donna Williams was stabbed to death by her son, her daughter was also killed. We hear from an Assistant Chief on how the department is coping with the losses. Information on memorial and trust fund for Officer Henwood's family listed below.

Condolences on Facebook page for Officer Henwood

GUEST:

Boyd Long, Assistant Chief, San Diego Police Department

Memorial Service

Memorial service for Officer Jeremy Henwood will be held Friday, August 12, 2001 at 10 o'clock a The Rock Church, 2277 Rosecrans Street, San Diego, CA 92126

The San Diego Police Officers Association has established a trust fund for Officer Henwood's family. Donations can be mailed to:

Officer Jeremy Henwood Family Trust

c/o San Diego Police Officers Association

8388 Vickers Street, San Diego, CA 92111

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

FUDGE: The San Diego police department is having to bury two of its officers this week. And military vets coming home from Afghanistan have a new war to fight. It's called finding a job. I'm Tom funnel, and this is KPBS Midday Edition. Is also coming up on midday today, assembly bill 1014 may not mean much to you, but it's good news for San Diego brewers, trying to diversify their beer business. We'll talk about the plans at two breweries to open tasting rooms. But we begin our program today with talk of the San Diego police department. Jeremy Henwood, David Hall, and Donna Williams, all members of the San Diego police department all killed in the last three weeks. Officer Henwood was shot Saturday on an unprovoked attack as he sat in his patrol car. Donna Williams was stabbed at home, alleged lie by her own son. Assistant police Chief Boyd Long attended the funeral of David Hall yesterday. On Friday, he'll be at the rock church for the funeral of Jeremy Henwood. He joins us today in studio. And Chief Long, thanks very much.

LONG: Oh, you're welcome.

FUDGE: And listeners, if you would like to join us with a question or comment about what we've seen happening with the San Diego police department, call us at 1-888-895-5727, 1-888-895-KPBS. Well, chief long, how is the department as a whole doing right now? Is it just another day at the office or do times like this change the place?

LONG: Well, I got to tell you, it's absolutely not another day at the office. This is tough times for the men and women of the San Diego police department. These tragic events go back to October, when we lost Christopher Wilson out of southeastern division, then again as you went through the litany of officers we just lost in the last few weeks. . It's been a significant impact to the department, but I guess what I'm here to assure everyone that's listening and everyone else that's not is this is a professional, well ran police department with professional officers that go out every day, put their selves on the line to make sure the citizens in this great city are safe.

FUDGE: What can you do as a leader within the department to try to maintain morale?

LONG: The greatest thing we can do is communicate openly, and often with our employees. And we've been doing I think the very best job we can with communication with all the employees. And we have. This department's been wonderful about having good, open dialogue from the top all the way to the bottom. Chief Lansdowne is out in front, and he's a great leader for this organization, and all the command staff and the department work well with all of our employees to make sure they're well informed.

FUDGE: Are there ways to provide support for officers in this situation? School kids might be offered counseling. Police officers might say, no, I'm fine.

LONG: Interesting. I've worked my way up to the position of assistant chief, and I've watched the department change in that area. We work closely with a focus group, doctor Jolie Brunton, who's a psychiatrist who is basically hired by the city to provide support to our employees. In addition, we have probably what has recently come to the forefront is we have a very robust chaplain program, where we have nearly 20 chaplains that work throughout the department, and they do nothing but work closely with the division, the officers in the divisions, and the command staff. And most recently, this is a great idea that chief Lansdowne brought to the department business was a wellness program. And that is something that focuses on what's best for our employees. And I tell you what, during these trying time, all of those have come together to do nothing but provide great support on our folks.

FUDGE: My wife works at a San Diego City library, and they had their flag half staff in the wake of officer hen wood's death. Are you expecting a big turn out to his funeral Friday?

LONG: We're expecting a huge turn out. The service is at 10:00†AM, it's at the rock church which is out at 2277 Rosecranz. We do expect over 3,000 participants in that service, citizens, and officers coming to show their respect.

FUDGE: And I think there's going to be a motor cade?

LONG: There will be. And I think this is a good opportunity to share with everyone that there will be some traffic tie-ups, it will go down from Qualcomm too.

FUDGE: We have a call from Josh in Point Loma. Go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. I just wanted to take this time, I was going to say I'm sure morale is in a tough sedate right now with the San Diego police. But just on myself and behalf of the community, thank you guys for what you do every day. Especially in light of the economic problems, the pension I know is a big problem. And it's easy for taxpayers to sit back and lash out, and you guys are overcompensated. But until you're actually in your shoes and see what you guys so is and do, and the service you do, I just wanted to say thank you very much. And once again, the officers are human being, and nobody's perfect. But anyway, we wish you all the best and thanks for what you do.

FUDGE: Thanks very much, Josh. Chief Boyd?

LONG: Yeah, I'd like to reply to that also, Josh. I can't thank you enough for those kind comments. I think a lot of people feel just as you do about the men and women that represent this police department, and I gotta reiterate what I said earlier. We have such eye professional group of people. And they're going to continue to do the right thing every single day and go out there and provide a say environment for our folks.

FUDGE: We've got a call from Enrique in old town. Go ahead. You're on the show.

NEW SPEAKER: I just wanted to echo Josh's comments and tell chief Boyd long that we're really sad for what has been going on, the San Diego police chief, I've dealt with him for a long, long time, as a native San Diegan. And they do an outstanding job, and I know you're facing difficult times. And we're with you in spirit, we really appreciate the tremendous job that the entire force does. And I just wanted to say our prayers are with you and the families of the people who are suffering right now. We know things will turn out. And I just want to tell you our heart felt prayers and condolences.

LONG: Enrique, thank you very much for that call, appreciate it.

FUDGE: Thanks very much for calling in. Assistant chief Boyd long with the San Diego police department is my guest today. The suspect in the killing of officer Henwood was shot and caught by police so he can't be interrogated. Do you believe here targeted Henwood because he was an officer?

LONG: At this point we haven't concluded exactly why. We did find as reported a note left behind in his house indicating that he was going to go out and either take someone's life or take his own life. We know that he was involved in a shooting incident in El Cajon only minutes before this event happened. And we know he was involved in a pursuit with another agency. We don't know exactly what the reason was that he targeted officer Henwood. We do be that it's likely because he was in a black and white police car, he was in uniform, that he was an intended target by the suspect.

FUDGE: I think Lansdowne called it an assassination.

LONG: Unfortunately, that's what it was.

FUDGE: Is there anything procedurally that the police can do in response to something like this? Here's a guy who appears to have been killed simply because he was a cop. Is there anything you can do about that in terms of the way you approach your job?

LONG: Every day we talk about situations where officer it is are put in the perils of danger. I think this was a real difficult one to prepare for. Police officers go out every single day to provide a service. And I think under the circumstances given in this condition, and we had a similar one about two years ago in southeastern one officer was shot while sitting in his police car. In this case, I think he was just the target of this person. And I don't know that there's a whole lots that the officer could have done at that point to avoid it.

FUDGE: I don't know if you knew officer Henwood, but is there anything you would like it say about his four years as a police officer?

LONG: I did know him. He was a mid city officer, and what a great community mid city is. Our department's broken down into nine particular divisions, mid city being one of those, probably the most diverse division in the City of San Diego, with 45 languages being spoken in that particular area. He committed himself to working one of the most busiest areas of the city, and City Heights. He was not only a San Diego police officer, he was a United States Marine Corps officer, he was committed to not only his community but his country. He had just gotten back in May of this year from a deployment over seas in Afghanistan. And I had an opportunity to sit down as every deployed member when they come back, part of the process if they're a patrol officer, they come back and speak with the patrol operations chief, and that's me. Spent about 45†minutes to an hour talking about his assessment of what was going on in Afghanistan. I think the thing I remember the most is his excitement to come back and put on this badge and go out and provide the service to the City of San Diego.

FUDGE: What about officer David Hall? Here he was a 14-year veteran and took his own life. He died under a cloud of allegations of drunk driving and hit and run. I think you attended his funeral just yesterday. What can you say? He left behind a wife and three children. What can you say about him?

LONG: It saddens me that we bury him and had his service yesterday. But the call earlier, Josh said we're human beings. And police officers as much as we want to do the right thing every day, periodically something bad happens or something wrong is done in our police department, which is just a representative of the population we serve.

FUDGE: I guess I'd be remiss if I didn't mention there have been several scandal wills involving the police department this year, one has been accused of raping a prostitute, one has been accuse of stopping women in their cars and asking for sexual flavors. Police officers are human beings? Has it just been a bad year for the SDPD in.

LONG: I'll go back to my years in the diameter. It has been a bad year for the San Diego police department. Don't judge us by the act was a few of our officers. Judge us by the response to those actions when they come to our attention. This is a police department and full of great men and women that come out every day and try their best to do the right thing.

FUDGE: We got a couple of calls from some very supportive people. Has the community been supportive? The community in City Heights or other part it is of the city?

LONG: They have been very supportive. And I think this is a good time to share the community actually came together and created a candle light vigil for officer Henwood. That'll be tomorrow evening in the City Heights community park, come is directly across from Mid City division, and from 7:30 to 8:30, there'll be a few speakers, but most personal, community members wanted to come out and show their support for the Henwood family that's in town and Jeremy Henwood.

FUDGE: And it's my understanding, a memorial fund has been set up for his family?

LONG: Its had. If anyone is interested at all in supporting Jeremy's family, the memorial fund is set up through the San Diego police officer's association. Their address is 8883 vicars. And you can go online to SDPOA.org if you choose, and feel compelled to donate to that fund.

FUDGE: We will put a link on our website to that fund as well so people can go to KPBS.org and find that. And chief long, before we let you go, is there any last thing you want to say about this very difficult couple of weeks that we've seen?

LONG: I would just say we have had an outpouring of loving from the community, of support, and not just in City Heights, but from throughout the San Diego community. And I got to tell you, this police department is only successful because of the support we receive from the San Diego community. And I want to take this moment to say thank you to the folks that support the San Diego PD.

FUDGE: Well, thanks to assistant chief Boyd long with the San Diego police department. He was here to talk with us about a number of thing, including the violent deaths of three officers, Jeremy Henwood, David Hall, and Donna Williams over the past three weeks. Thanks for coming in.

LONG: Thank you very much.

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