Participants in the seventh annual Peace Officer Memorial Run carried with them personal reasons — a student honoring his grandpa, a cop battling back from a shooting and car crash — for turning out on a cool, windy Sunday morning to do a half marathon or 5K.
Some stories were worn literally on a sleeve, like “Officer Robert Terry Mackie, EOW 8/14/49.” Mackie had been with the Los Banos Police Department only nine months when he was fatally shot nearly 70 years ago. Other T-shirts bore the image of Stanislaus County sheriff’s Deputy Jason Garner, whose patrol car crash in May 2017 killed him and Community Service Officer Raschel Johnson.
Johnson was pictured on a banner near the start/finish line, and photographs of Stanislaus County’s 17 fallen peace officers, along with their “end of watch” dates, were on mile markers along the course.
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The family of Stanislaus Deputy Dennis Wallace carried a banner bearing his image. He was ambushed and fatally shot after coming upon a stolen van near Hughson on Nov. 13, 2016.
But other stories took a little asking. Beyer High School sophomore Theo Miller shared that he ran in honor of his grandfather Joe Yonan, who was a longtime Stanislaus sheriff’s deputy. Miller said he has “total respect” for all first responders and wants to pursue a law-enforcement career himself. “It’s amazing what they do and contribute — in fear for their lives sometimes — to keep doing what they’re doing.”
Miller, with a time 18:18.7, was the winning runner of the 5K. He crossed perhaps just a second or two behind A.J. Mitchell, who was in his racing wheelchair.
Mitchell said he couldn’t be more proud to be out on the course with public-safety and military personnel, many of whom ran in uniform. “I’m a big supporter of the police, firefighters,” he said. “I always love supporting this race and running it, and this was my first time winning an event, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
The crowd goes wild
Well after many fast and even not-so-fast 5K runners crossed, a roar of the crowd indicated something special was happening at the finish line. A man who’d been pushed along the course in a wheelchair got up and finished by using a walker. A police badge hung from a chain around his neck.
Los Banos police Officer Aaron Pinon had registered for the run after recovering from a wound he suffered during a gunfight with a suspect on July 31, 2017. He was shot in the arm, and the slug came out his armpit, went into his side and lodged in his back, said fiancee Lydia Goes, who walked with him Sunday.
But Pinon, who trained with a sergeant to run the 5K, was heading to work on Aug. 30 (he was to be on modified duty until Sept. 8) when he was involved in a head-on collision. It broke his pelvis, sternum, two ribs and a vertebra, lacerated his spleen and bruised his lung. With support, and to show his support, he turned out for the race anyway.
Overall, a little more than 1,500 runners turned out for the Memorial Run, organizers said. Among them were 45 peace officers who registered to run in full duty uniform and gear, including gun and bulletproof vest.
For the second year, the winner of the half marathon was Edward Charles, who set a PR with his time of 1:21:18.9. The 17-year-old Modesto Junior College student came in first last year, too, when he was a Beyer senior. “This town means a lot to me,” he said, and he’s happy to give the Memorial Run a hometown winner.
The first female finisher of the half marathon was Josey Rupert, with a time of 1:35:03.7. And the female winner of the 5K was Norma Evans, with a time of 23:10:3.
The winning full-uniform half-marathoner was Officer Kweichang Wachholz-Yee of the Stockton Police Department, and the winning full-uniform 5K runner was Officer Dave Copeland of the Marysville Police Department.
For full race results, see www.synergyracetiming.com/peace-officer-memorial-run.