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Husband-wife detectives, including La Jolla High grad, killed in crash are remembered as ‘two of our best’

Detectives Ryan Park, 32, and Jamie Huntley-Park, 33, were killed June 4 in a head-on crash in San Ysidro.
(Courtesy of San Diego Police Department)

Detectives Ryan Park and Jamie Huntley-Park were killed in a head-on crash in San Ysidro.

Ryan Park and Jamie Huntley met and began dating while in the San Diego police academy in 2012. They became officers on the same day in April that year, married in February 2016 and were promoted to detectives on the same day two years later.

The morning of June 4, the two were scheduled to be off work but were working “follow up on cases” anyway, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. As they drove in an unmarked department sedan south on Interstate 5 in San Ysidro, a wrong-way driver slammed into their car.

The couple and the other driver died at the scene of the fiery crash, which happened at about 10:25 a.m. on I-5 near state Route 905.

San Diego police Officer Jamie Huntley takes a break from being on patrol in 2015.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“You couldn’t have met two nicer kids,” Nisleit said at a news conference at police headquarters. "[They] had nothing but their lives ahead of them. Both their lives and their careers were definitely on a very, very rapid trend upward, just doing amazing work.”

Huntley-Park, 33, grew up in the San Diego area and graduated from La Jolla High School, according to Nisleit. She played college hockey in New York before becoming a coach and a referee with a goal of refereeing at the next Winter Olympics.

She was a detective in the Police Department’s Southern Division, the chief said.

Park, 32, was one of Nisleit’s patrol officers when the chief was captain of the Western Division. Park was “a remarkable patrol officer who quickly [ascended] the ranks and became a homicide detective,” according to Nisleit.

“When the San Diego Police Department loses two members, it hurts,” Nisleit said. “It hurts the department, it hurts the community, it hurts the city.”

The scene of the wrong-way crash June 4 that killed San Diego police Detectives Ryan Park and Jamie Huntley-Park.
The scene of the wrong-way crash June 4 that killed San Diego police Detectives Ryan Park and Jamie Huntley-Park on Interstate 5 in San Ysidro.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The couple did not have children, said Nisleit, who visited the crash scene June 4 before spending the rest of his day, along with a department chaplain, informing the couple’s family members of their deaths. Nisleit spoke in person to Huntley-Park’s parents and one of Park’s brothers, he said.

Mayor Todd Gloria offered his condolences to the couple’s families.

Gloria said about 11,000 people work for the city of San Diego, and “Jamie and Ryan were two of our best, and we lost them today, and that breaks our hearts.”

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria speaks alongside Police Chief David Nisleit at a news conference June 4 at police headquarters.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria speaks alongside Police Chief David Nisleit at a news conference June 4 at police headquarters as they mourned the deaths of Detectives Ryan Park and Jamie Huntley-Park in a head-on crash that morning on I-5 in San Ysidro.
(Alex Riggins / The San Diego Union-Tribune)
In 2004, Jamie Huntley, then a La Jolla High School roller hockey player, suits up for practice.
(File / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Park and Huntley-Park were the second and third San Diego officers to die while on duty this year. In February, patrol Officer David Sisto, 39, experienced a medical emergency while responding to a call and died later at a hospital.

The detectives’ deaths triggered an outpouring of grief on social media, with the Police Department’s Twitter and Facebook pages filling with messages expressing shock and profound sadness.

The losses were especially hard on those who knew the couple best. In a statement released to ABC 10 TV, Ryan Park’s brother, Justin, said, “There is no right way to mourn, and right now my family is at a loss.”

But he added that the family took comfort in knowing his brother was with his soulmate.

“They did everything together,” he wrote. “Right now we picture them traveling all over heaven, walking among the clouds together, sipping on a beer and some scotch, which Jamie loved to collect.”

It was a message that Huntley-Park’s mother, Cherisse Huntley, echoed during a phone call with ABC 10.

“Jamie was an amazing woman, daughter, sister, aunt, coach, friend and wife. She was our protector, our hero, and will be missed every minute of every day,” she said. “Ryan was everything to Jamie, and together they were one.”

Huntley-Park’s death has been especially devastating for the hockey community, where she was a beloved youth coach with San Diego Angels Girls Hockey. Alex Morrison, the group’s director, said she was among his closest friends.

Their friendship went beyond a shared passion for coaching and refereeing the sport. Morrison was the broker who represented the couple when they bought a home. He and his daughter went to Disneyland with them May 31, and he was supposed to be at an Angels-Mariners baseball game with them in Anaheim the night of June 4.

“She was as heart-on-her-sleeve as anyone I’ve ever met. She always, always, always cared for others,” Morrison said. “She’s just this right balance of holding the kids accountable and holding them to a high standard while showing the utmost compassion for them and understanding. And that’s just how she lived her life.”

A heart-shaped wreath of flowers made by youth hockey players was placed in honor of Jamie Huntley-Park.
A heart-shaped wreath of flowers made by youth hockey players was placed at San Diego’s Salvation Army Kroc Center in honor of Jamie Huntley-Park, a San Diego police detective and longtime hockey coach and referee who died in a car crash June 4 along with her husband, Detective Ryan Park.
(Alex Morrison)

Early June 5, girls from different youth hockey teams Huntley-Park coached gathered at San Diego’s Salvation Army Kroc Center to grieve. They made a heart-shaped wreath out of flowers, filled with notes and drawings.

There were more than a few tears, Morrison said, but it also was a joyful moment in that it underscored how many lives Huntley-Park had touched — as did the flood of Facebook messages and calls he’s received, stretching from Finland to New York to South Carolina to Seattle, among other places.

In 2019, Huntley-Park was featured in a segment on what was then Fox Sports San Diego, highlighting her work coaching a San Diego Junior Gulls hockey team and refereeing for the sport she’d grown up playing. She went on to play at Elmira College in New York, where she was the team’s enforcer.

According to that segment and a 2019 article on usahockey.com, Huntley-Park just missed the cut to make it to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea as a women’s hockey referee. But she had her sights set on the 2022 Games.

“She’s in a very good position for this next quad moving into 2022 in Beijing,” USA Hockey’s director of the officiating education program said in the article.

“My goal is to make 2022,” Huntley-Park told Fox Sports San Diego. “I don’t want that disappointing email and notification again of not making it.”

She said her husband and the Police Department supported her hockey work.

Nisleit said Park and Huntley-Park were “beloved by their colleagues.”

“They’re special people,” the chief said. “It takes a special breed to want to put yourself in harm’s way, to work for the community, to provide that public safety. And to lose two in one incident, it’s hard.” ◆