YOLO COUNTY NEWS
Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto steps down after speaking at the unveiling and dedication of the Yolo County Fallen Officer Memorial on Saturday at the Woodland Courthouse. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Local News

Fallen officer memorial unveiled in Woodland

By May 11, 2013

Yolo County’s 11 fallen peace officers took their places of honor on a permanent memorial unveiled Saturday outside the historic courthouse in Woodland.

The stone memorial was conceived of and funded by the Yolo County Retired Peace Officers Association, which collected donations and held fundraising events over a five-year period to cover the $21,000 cost.

Officers who gave their lives in the line of duty between 1912 and 2008 include:
* Winters City Marshal William P. Rice, killed on Oct. 18, 1912, while responding with a constable to a call of an intoxicated man waving a gun in the street. The suspect shot Rice in the chest, and was arrested as he stepped in the street to reload his gun. Rice, employed for just six months, left behind a wife and a 14-month-old son.

* California Highway Patrolman Ivan Casselman, who died on Aug. 24, 1935, when his patrol motorcycle crashed into the back of a truck he was attempting to pass near Davis. Casselman, 33, was a seven-year veteran of the CHP’s Yolo County squad and the 20th officer killed in the line of duty since the agency was founded in 1929.

* Deputy Sheriff Walter J. Leinberger, killed on Nov. 18, 1943, during the attempted arrest of Luis “Ironmouth” Balle at his cabin in the Bryte area of West Sacramento. He was accompanied by his wife, Zetta, who despite never having fired a gun before shot the suspect twice in the arm with her husband’s service weapon. Balle was killed in a shootout the next day, and Leinberger’s son William, 11 years old when his father died, later joined the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department and retired as a sergeant in 1984.

* Woodland Police Officer Laurence Sills, who died on June 13, 1945 — 12 days after being injured in a motorcycle accident while pursuing a suspect vehicle. Survived by a wife and two daughters, Sills had worked for the Woodland Police Department for four years.

* Davis Police Officer Douglas Eugene Cantrill, shot and killed on Sept. 7, 1959, after stopping a man and women who were acting suspicious in a residential area. There were no witnesses to the shooting, and while two suspects were apprehended, no one was ever charged with Cantrill’s death. The 23-year-old policeman had been with the Davis Police Department for only a month when he died and was survived by a wife and infant child.

* CHP officers Roy Blecher and William Freeman, partners who both were fatally shot on Dec. 22, 1979, after making a routine traffic stop on Interstate 80 near the Yolo Causeway in West Sacramento. Their killer currently is serving a life sentence for the murders of Blecher, who was 50 and a 21-year CHP veteran, and Freeman, who was 32 and had been with the highway patrol for 12 years. Both left families behind.

* West Sacramento Police Officer James McKnight, shot and killed while serving a warrant with the Yolo County Narcotics Enforcement Team on June 16, 1990. A 15-year police veteran who had recently graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law, McKnight is survived by a wife and three children.

* CHP Sgt. Gary Wagers, who is believed to have been initiating a pursuit on March 14, 2001, when he lost control of his patrol car while transitioning from northbound Highway 115 to northbound Interstate 5 in Woodland. A 22-year veteran of the CHP, Wagers is survived by a wife, son, daughter and stepdaughter.

* CHP Officer Andrew T. “Andy” Stevens, shot and killed on Nov. 17, 2005, during a traffic stop in a rural neighborhood west of Woodland. Two men were convicted of first-degree murder — and one sentenced to the death penalty — for the murder of Stevens, a 13-year CHP veteran survived by his wife Michelle.

* Sheriff’s Deputy Jose Antonio “Tony” Diaz, shot and killed on June 15, 2008, while making a traffic stop at a Dunnigan truck stop. After following the suspect on a high-speed pursuit, Diaz died in a hail of gunfire when a bullet penetrated his protective vest. The suspect received the death penalty for the murder of Diaz, a four-year Sheriff’s Department veteran.

Enterprise staff

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