Thousands fill church to salute slain officer
By Ken Fields and Sara Sapeda
City News Service
Thousands of mourners, hundreds of them bedecked in dress uniforms, filled a Liberty Station church today to pay respects to a San Diego police officer and decorated ex-Marine who was gunned down last weekend while patrolling an inner-city neighborhood.
Among those saluting 36-year-old Jeremy Henwood at his late-morning memorial service were San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Henwood, a four-year SDPD officer who served repeat deployments to combat zones, lost his life to a street shooting carried out by a suicidal, shotgun-wielding petty criminal who ambushed his patrol car in City Heights early Saturday evening. Police fatally shot the suspected assailant during an armed confrontation a short time later.
Hundreds of law enforcement and firefighting vehicles with their emergency lights flashing accompanied the hearse carrying Henwood’s remains in a ceremonial procession from Qualcomm Stadium to the Rosecrans Street chapel where the funeral took place.
During the 2 1/2-hour service, the Marine Corps gave Henwood a posthumous promotion from captain to major.
“Just like when he fought for our nation, being a cop gave Jeremy pride, knowing he was doing something fundamental to our quality of life in the United States,” the mayor told the funeral gathering. “Every day, when he put on his blue San Diego (police) uniform, Jeremy knew he was a cornerstone of civil society.”
With his “admirable military service record” and a degree in criminal justice, Henwood could have “done just about anything” as a career upon returning from his most recent combat deployment, the mayor said.
“He could have joined a private security or a military training firm,” Sanders said. “He could have been a civil servant with a desk job. He could have gone into any number of less dangerous law enforcement jobs. But Jeremy chose to be a beat cop. He chose a job that everybody knows means you start your shift knowing in the back of your mind it might be your last.”
Police Chief William Lansdowne said he was “honored” to have known Henwood, whom he described as “a special person.”
“We’re sorry that we lost Jeremy, but don’t be sad,” he told the mourners. “Jeremy led a full life. Jeremy was excited about what he did. Jeremy made us all special. … And Jeremy set a standard that’s raised the bar for all of us.”
Robbie Henwood of San Antonio, Texas, praised his oldest child as a
“proud man and a fabulous son.” In a tearful address to the crowd, Emily
Henwood described her older brother as “a great man and a hero to our
country,” adding that she was “extremely proud of the legacy he will leave.”
Fellow Marine reservist Maj. Ted Bonanno said his late friend “always served something bigger than himself.”
A native of Ottawa, Canada, who grew up in Texas, he became a U.S. citizen so he could seek to qualify as a USMC officer, according to his family. He served three tours of combat duty in the past eight years — twice in Iraq and, most recently, in Afghanistan — and earned numerous awards and decorations during his 15 years of military service.
At the time of his death, Henwood was in line for the promotion in rank that would come to pass at his funeral.
An American flag raised over the ruins of the World Trade Center shortly after the 9/11 attacks and used at important funerals in subsequent years was flown to San Diego to be displayed alongside Henwood’s casket.
According to police, Henwood’s killer was 23-year-old Dejon Marquee White of San Diego. Just prior to the slaying, White allegedly had shot another man, apparently at random, outside an El Cajon fast-food restaurant. The initial victim survived despite critical head and face injuries.
About 10 minutes later, White flashed his headlights while approaching Henwood’s eastbound cruiser from behind on University Avenue, near 45th Street. The assailant then pulled up alongside the officer, fired the gun into his driver’s side window and sped off.
A woman who witnessed the shooting used Henwood’s police radio to report what had happened. Medics took the mortally wounded officer to Scripps Mercy Hospital, where he succumbed to head wounds early Sunday morning.
About a half-hour after the attack, police found White’s black Audi a few blocks away, near the suspect’s apartment in the 4000 block of 48th Street. When confronted by officers, White allegedly grabbed his shotgun, prompting them to open fire. He died at the scene.
White, who had a prior history of theft, reckless driving, resisting arrest and other minor crimes, had left behind a three-page suicide note in his residence, but it made no mention of homicidal intentions and revealed no possible motive for the rampage, police said.
The slain officer, a Texas native, was a captain in the Marine Corps Reserve and had served three tours of duty in the past eight years — twice in Iraq and, most recently, in Afghanistan. He earned numerous awards and decorations during his 15 years of military service.
Henwood is survived by his parents, Beverly and Robbie, brother, Robbie Jr., and sister, Emily, all of San Antonio, Texas. His body was expected to be returned to Texas for burial following today’s memorial service.
Henwood was the second San Diego police officer killed on the job within 10 months. In late October, Officer Chris Wilson, 50, was shot to death during a probation raid at a Skyline-area apartment complex.
Henwood’s killing also closely followed the violent off-duty deaths of two other SDPD personnel. Veteran child-abuse Detective Donna Williams, 52, was stabbed to death at her home last month along with her teenage daughter, allegedly by the policewoman’s mentally ill 24-year-old son. He faces two counts of murder in the case.
On Aug. 1, SDPD motorcycle Officer David Hall, a 14-year department veteran, shot himself to death in his backyard. Hall was awaiting trial on drunken driving and hit-and-run charges he was facing in connection with an off-duty collision in Serra Mesa.
The San Diego Police Officers Association has created a trust fund for the Henwood family. Contributions can be mailed to: Officer Jeremy Henwood Family Trust, c/o San Diego Police Officers Association, 8388 Vickers St, San Diego, CA 92111. Donors are asked to write “Officer Jeremy Henwood” in the memo line of their checks.
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