Reedley officer's death touches many

March 1, 2010 

REEDLEY -- The death early Monday of Reedley police officer Javier Bejar sparked an outpouring of flowers, blue ribbons and grief in the small town he served.

Flowers and plants in honor of the fallen officer were left in front of the Police Department. Blue ribbons were tied on downtown streetlights. People who knew him shared memories -- and sadness -- as they absorbed the news.

Bejar was mortally wounded Thursday during a shootout in Minkler that also claimed the life of Fresno County sheriff's deputy Joel Wahlenmaier and injured a second deputy. The suspect, 51-year-old Ricky Liles, later ended his own life with a gunshot to the head.

Bejar, who suffered a head wound, was taken off of life support early Monday. Bejar, who lived in Clovis, leaves behind a wife. He was the first Reedley officer killed in the line of duty in the department's 100-year history.

A funeral has been scheduled for Monday, said Reedley City Manager Rocky Rogers. Details have not been finalized, he said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday issued a statement about the slain officer:

"Maria and I extend our hearts to the loved ones of Officer Javier Bejar as they mourn the tragic loss of a brave public safety officer. He selflessly answered when called upon to protect his community, and we will be forever grateful for his service and sacrifice."

The statement said Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff in Bejar's honor.

The death hit home to many of the city's 25,000 residents who seem to know the 28-year-old officer or his family or friends, residents said.

Bejar, who grew up in Orange Cove, was a police Explorer when he attended Reedley High School and joined the force as an officer in 2005.

"Absolutely gut-wrenching," Scott Preheim, a downtown jewelry store owner, said of the news that Bejar had died. "It just doesn't happen here."

Bejar was a regular at the Mainstreet Cafe, and always greeted restaurant owner Angie Friend with a handshake and a hug. "He was always a gentleman," she said.

On Monday, the Friends sent sandwiches, potato salad and two pies to Bejar's family in Orange Cove.

In front of the Police Department on G Street, Sherry Cummings and Shaun White with the Mountain Valley Fire Department drove 30 miles from Squaw Valley hoping to get blue ribbons they heard were being distributed in Bejar's honor.

The two firefighters said they wanted to show their support for the Reedley police force.

About 1,000 blue ribbons and about 500 blue-ribbon lapel pins are expected to arrive today at the Greater Reedley Chamber of Commerce. They will be given out for free, though donations to the Javier Bejar Support Fund will be accepted.

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