Some people live in the light. They help when asked, they volunteer, they protect those who cannot protect themself. They shine among us.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Wallace was one of those.
He was known in his department for his service, compassion and commitment. To those he served in communities where he lived, he was a bighearted, dedicated deputy who could be found on the soccer pitch, or refereeing football, or working with children in crisis through the D.A.R.E. anti-drug program.
With his murder, Stanislaus County becomes another community in mourning.
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Wallace was the sixth member of California law enforcement killed in the line of duty in the past five weeks. Lancaster County Deputy Steve Owen was gunned down on Oct. 4 while investigating a burglary. Veteran officer Jose Vega and partner Lesley Zerebny both were killed in Palm Springs while trying to calm a family dispute. Modoc Deputy Jack Hopkins was shot to death on Oct. 19 and Fresno County Deputy Rod Lucas was killed accidentally on Oct. 31.
Wallace was the 11th California officer killed this year; nationwide, 121 have died in the line of duty, 56 from gunfire. No one does such dangerous work for money alone. Most, like Deputy Wallace, have vowed to serve and protect.
Not much is known of the man arrested for shooting Deputy Wallace. We don’t know what David Machado was doing at the Fox Grove fishing access along the Tuolumne River in a stolen van. We don’t know why he might have shot Wallace but not the other victims of his crime spree, which ended in the Tulare County town of Lindsay when he tried to hijack a car and officers there quickly caught him.
In the few minutes it took deputies to respond to Wallace’s call for backup, we don’t know what transpired. But Sheriff Adam Christianson called the murder an “execution.” We don’t know for certain, but the crime appears to be a vicious criminal attack rather than a political statement.
What we do know for certain is how much Wallace meant to the community in which he lived, worked and so frequently volunteered.
“He wasn’t just assigned to Hughson,” County Supervisor Vito Chiesa told The Bee, “he’s a fixture in Hughson. He was so well loved.”
Wallace’s father Randall, a CHP officer, was killed in an automobile accident following a double shift in 1978. Dennis Wallace and his brother David followed their father’s footsteps into law enforcement, Dennis joining the Sheriff’s Office and David the Modesto police.
As word spread of the shooting, the people of Hughson gathered for a vigil. Hundreds arrived to light candles in honor of a man who virtually everyone in Hughson knew, many loved and all respected.
Those candles glowed brightly in the gathering darkness, as brightly as the memory many will carry of Deputy Dennis Wallace.