Juan Jaime Gonzalez, one of two CHP officers killed Monday in an accident south of Fresno, was remembered Tuesday for remaining active with his former Fresno State fraternity, even giving members safe rides home from parties.
He was an alumnus of the Nu Alpha Kappa fraternity, and current NAK members said Gonzalez frequently phoned when he was off duty to give advice about staying safe on campus.
"He would call us and say, 'If you are going to party, let me know and I will pick you up at any time of the night,'" said NAK chapter president Richard Batalla. Gonzalez was known to follow through on his promises.
"All the brothers were pretty much devastated" when they heard that Gonzalez was killed in a crash while racing to an accident scene, Batalla added.
Gonzalez and his partner, officer Brian Mitchio Law, were responding to a multiple-vehicle accident on Highway 99 in Kingsburg. As they unexpectedly came upon the crash scene, Gonzalez steered to avoid hitting other parties in the roadway and struck a guardrail and a sign before the CHP cruiser flipped over. The officers died at the scene.
Gonzalez graduated from Fresno State in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in criminology.
On Tuesday, flags on campus flew at half-staff in memory of the CHP officers. Those on campus who knew Gonzalez described him as a mentor and big brother to students.
NAK adviser Luz Gonzalez, who is not related, said Gonzalez wanted to be a CHP officer for as long as she'd known him.
Luz Gonzalez, who is dean of the College of Social Sciences, said it was Juan Gonzalez's mission to bring pride to his family and serve the Central Valley, where she said he grew up.
As a student, she said, Gonzalez worked tirelessly to plan Fresno State's annual Latino Commencement Celebration. She found a photo of Gonzalez at his graduation in 2004, where she said he labored up until the last minute before receiving his diploma.
"Right before they form the procession, they put on their caps and gowns and they jump in," she said. "If you'd seen him right there, that was his moment."
A CHP spokesman said Tuesday that funeral arrangements for the men are being made and the investigation into the crash was continuing. Among the questions to be answered are what Gonzalez saw that caused him to swerve as he reached the scene on Highway 99.
Both men attended the CHP academy. After graduating, Gonzalez went to the CHP's San Jose office to train. Law jumped directly into the overnight shift at the CHP station off Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.
Law spent five years patrolling the busy urban district stretching north to Richmond and east through the Caldecott Tunnel, beginning his day with the evening rush hour and ending just before the morning commute. Despite the tough hours, CHP officer Sean Wilkenfeld said, Law loved working at night because of the action and the camaraderie of his crew.
Law left the Oakland office a year ago to be closer to his family.
Quiet, athletic and into sports, especially football, he "was a really stand-up guy," Wilkenfeld said. "He was legitimately just a great person."
Wilkenfeld was a rookie cop when he first met Law a few years ago, following the same trajectory from the academy to Oakland.
"Brian was always there willing to help me out," Wilkenfeld said. "He was always positive, always happy."
Gonzalez spent two years in San Jose before transferring to Fresno. After Law arrived in Fresno, they teamed up to work the night shift and became the best of friends.
The San Jose Mercury News contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, email@example.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.