300 people at memorial service honor married detectives, including La Jolla High grad, killed in crash

Pallbearers carry the casket of San Diego police Detectives Jamie Huntley-Park and Ryan Park after their memorial service.
Pallbearers carry the casket of San Diego police Detectives Jamie Huntley-Park and Ryan Park after their memorial service at Maranatha Chapel in 4S Ranch on June 15. The couple died after a wrong-way driver slammed into their car on Interstate 5 in San Ysidro on June 4.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego police, family and friends remember Detectives Ryan Park and Jamie Huntley-Park.


Detectives Ryan Park and Jamie Huntley-Park were inseparable, from the start of their relationship as police recruits until the tragic end when they were killed in a wrong-way freeway crash.

On June 15, they were buried together in the same casket.

“If they weren’t together, they were talking about each other,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit recalled earlier in the day during a memorial service for the couple.

More than 300 people gathered at Maranatha Chapel in 4S Ranch near Rancho Bernardo for the late-morning service. For nearly two hours, uniformed officers, family members and friends listened as speakers recalled the lives of Park, 32, and Huntley-Park, 33, who were husband and wife. Huntley-Park was a La Jolla High School graduate.

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

San Diego police Chaplain Chuck Price, who gave the opening prayer, told mourners he hoped they would celebrate and honor the couple, calling them “incredible human beings who now rest in a single casket.”

Nisleit remembered the couple as “exceptional” police officers and human beings. “They loved this profession,” the chief said. “They loved helping people.”

Huntley-Park’s uncle said they were soulmates. Park learned to cook a perfect steak for his wife, even though he didn’t eat meat.

The couple met at the police academy in 2012 and married in 2016. They were promoted to detectives on the same day in 2018. Park investigated homicides, and Huntley-Park worked in the Police Department’s Southern Division near the border with Mexico.

“I’m going to talk about Jamie first because Ryan would want it that way,” Nisleit said.

Huntley-Park grew up in La Jolla and was a phenomenal hockey player who went on to play at Elmira College in New York, where she earned a master’s degree. On the ice, she had a reputation as an enforcer and still holds a record at her college for most penalty minutes in a season. She was a coach and mentor to younger players and a hockey referee with aspirations of working Olympic games.

“As a police officer, she was everything that you would want in a cop — she was completely compassionate, tenacious, a great teammate, and to say her future was nothing but bright would be a gross understatement,” Nisleit said.

The chief fondly recalled running with Park when they worked together in the Western Division and also on the famed Baker to Vegas, a grueling annual 120-mile relay race run by law enforcement teams.

“Ryan was a very gifted runner, but he also was a goofy runner,” the chief said. “[I] don’t mean any harm or foul by that, but if there was a puddle Ryan would jump in it, if there was a dirt berm, he would run up and jump off it.”

The chief said he imagined the pair in heaven: Huntley-Park playing on the ice, Park running — “of course, in puddles” — with the wind in his back.

“To Jamie and Ryan, you will be sorely missed but never forgotten,” he said. “Rest in peace, my friends. We’ll take it from here.”

The day they died June 4, they had the day off but were following up on cases when their unmarked department-issued sedan was struck by a car traveling north on southbound Interstate 5 in San Ysidro.

The wrong-way driver was identified by authorities as Sandra Daniels, 58. In an interview, Daniels’ husband said she had diabetes and that he believed low blood sugar may have caused her to become disoriented on the road. A California Highway Patrol investigation into the crash is ongoing.

The deaths of Park and Huntley-Park devastated all who knew them, from their family members and the men and women of the Police Department to their neighbors in the Harmony Grove community of Escondido and the San Diego Angels girls hockey team that Huntley-Park coached.

On June 9, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags at the state Capitol to be flown at half staff to honor the couple.

Robert O’Neill, a San Diego County Superior Court judge who officiated at the couple’s wedding, had known Huntley-Park since the early 1990s when her family moved in up the street from his home. He called Huntley-Park fearless. He recounted her coming to the door in her bathing suit, wrapped in a towel, to ask if she could swim in his family’s pool.

When she was in grammar school, she interviewed him for a class assignment — a report on “interesting” people.

O’Neill told her about injuring his leg when he was a motorcycle officer with the San Diego Police Department and gave her a helmet and gun belt to use in her presentation. After that, he said, she asked questions about police work and looked through his scrapbooks. He told her being a police officer was the best job he ever had.

“I even loaned her my Joseph Wambaugh books,” he said, referring to the highly regarded police-themed novels.

When O’Neill’s wife died, he said, the couple went to see him at the hospital.

“The type of people they were is noble, the salt of the earth,” he said. “The citizens lost two top-notch officers.”

Dan Ellison, a retired police sergeant who is active in the hockey community, said he helped persuade Huntley-Park to officiate hockey games.

He recalled the time she was working a championship game her first year as a referee and rushed in to break up a group of players who were pushing and shoving.

Her skate caught on the ice and she slid right through the players, knocking them down. “She’s lying right there in front of us — she gets up, gives us
that smile, turns around and goes right back to work.”

Members of the San Diego Angels hockey team take down an American flag after the memorial service.
Members of the San Diego Angels girls hockey team that Jamie Huntley-Park coached take down an American flag flown between two firetrucks after the memorial service for Huntley-Park and her husband, Ryan Park, at Maranatha Chapel in 4S Ranch on June 15.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

According to close friend Alex Morrison, Huntley-Park was a premature baby who weighed just over 2 pounds when she was born. Her dad said she gave him a strong grip, earning her the nicknames “Bamm” and “Bamm-Bamm” — a reference to the Flintstones character — because she was a fighter.

“Together this duo could do anything. They complemented each other, they completed each other,” Morrison said.

Friends fondly recalled Park’s sense of humor, his sharp memory and dogged investigative work.

“When you walked into their home, you got two things: a hug from Ryan and then a ridiculous joke,” recalled friend Damien Gomez, who knew him for about 10 years. “I wish I could share every bit of mirth, all the ridiculous moments, the absolute damn silliness that man filled my life with and let me be a party to.”

Park’s supervisor, Detective Sgt. Geoff DeCesari, said one day he was bragging that he was “hip.” Park’s retort was he was “closer to a hip replacement,” DeCesari recalled.

When Park received invitations on his computer for team meetings, he always would reply as “tentative” — something DeCesari said drove him crazy.

“So one day I asked, ‘Why are you always ‘tentative?’” the sergeant recalled as he fought back tears. “And he said, “‘Sarge, we’re not guaranteed tomorrow.’”

DeCesari, who was flanked by fellow detectives on Park’s investigative team, called Park “the backbone” of the group and recalled a time Park worked 27 hours straight on a case.

Among those attending the service was California Attorney General Rob Bonta, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, Sheriff Bill Gore and chiefs from local police agencies.

The ceremony ended with a dispatcher broadcasting the couple’s ID numbers and the code 10-42, indicating their “end of watch.”

Their casket was driven away in a hearse as the chief and other officers followed in procession to El Camino Memorial Cemetery in Sorrento Valley. ◆