Tulare County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in plane crash honored at funeral

California Attorney General Kamala Harris attended the funeral Monday of Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Ballantyne, who was killed Feb. 10 when the department’s airplane crashed near Springville, killing him and pilot James Chavez.

“On behalf of the state of California law enforcement family, our thoughts and prayers are with you during this extremely difficult and tragic time,” Harris said to the large crowd gathered at First Assembly of God Church.

“Please know that the California Department of Justice and the state’s entire law enforcement community are here for you as you mourn the loss of your colleague and family member.”

The cause of crash is under investigation.

Deputy Ballantyne, 52, grew up in Visalia and was hired as a sheriff’s trainee in 1989.

In his career, he served as detentions officer and patrol officer, worked in the crime lab and as a bailiff before being hired as the spotter for Sheriff One, the light sport aircraft used to find suspects from the air.

“He died doing what he loved to do,” Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux said after the plane crash, he went to the Visalia home of Deputy Ballantyne’s mother, Jean Ballantyne, to break the news.

“I knocked on the door,” he said. “She answered the door politely and said, ‘I don’t want to hear what you have to say.’

“She explained she already knew in her heart. ... Not because anyone had already told her – she said because of mother’s intuition.”

She later told Boudreaux her son as a child was “obedient and content.”

Boudreaux said he believed it because years ago he worked in the jail and on patrol with Deputy Ballantyne.

“There was nothing upsetting him or making him mad or where he would get in an outrage,” Boudreaux said.

Several years ago, Deputy Ballantyne was hospitalized with a life-threatening illness, so Boudreaux went to visit him in the hospital.

“All he could think about was getting back on his feet and going back to work,” Boudreaux said.

Deputy Ballantyne’s name will be added to the Peace Officer Memorial in Visalia, and memorials in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., Boudreaux said.

As the tactical officer on Sheriff One, Deputy Ballantyne and Chavez found a lost 3-year-old and a person with Alzheimer’s, and interrupted burglaries in progress.

“He would proudly tell you that Sheriff One assisted in an average of three felony apprehension per week,” said Sgt. Michele Price.

While in the air near the Kern County line, Deputy Ballantyne spotted dozens of greenhouses in a remote area and took photos because it seemed suspicious. The find led to 12,300 marijuana plants and 33 arrests “all just because Scott had a hunch,” Price said.

Bailiff Tracy Mellow said Deputy Ballantyne was quick to arrive when called for assistance.

“If you knew Scott was coming to be your backup, you’d breathe a sigh of relief,” Mellow said. “That man had your back. I believe everyone who ever worked with Scott can attest to that.”

Deputy Ballantyne wanted the Sheriff One job and when he was offered the position, “his face was lit up like I’ve never seen it before,” Mellow said. “He had a smile from ear to ear. … I knew he was the perfect candidate for that position. I knew he would be great.”

Deputy Ballantyne’s father, the late Lt. Col. Stanley Ballantyne, served in South Korea, then Iran as an Army adviser to the Shah of Iran. The family lived there for two and a half years when Deputy Ballantyne was younger than 5.

He graduated from Redwood High School and attended College of the Sequoias and Fresno State.

Chaplain Kevin Mizner said Deputy Ballantyne learned to ride a unicycle in his youth, delivered pizza in his teens, worked on cars as a young man and liked most animals. Recently, he took in a Chihuahua he named Weird Willie.

Dispatcher Jim Reeves said Deputy Ballantyne would show video he had taken from the air, including one where he tracked a vehicle fleeing an illegal cockfighting operation.

“He was really enthusiastic about his job, always telling us about the capabilities of the aircraft,” Reeves said.

Retired dispatcher Enda Perkins said Deputy Ballantyne once visited as she was struggling with a coffee maker that had quit working. He arrived the next day with a professional-grade Farmers Brothers coffee maker.

“He said, ‘The only thing worse than a tired dispatcher is a tired dispatcher with no coffee,’ ” Perkins said.

At Visalia Cemetery, the ceremony included a flyby of law enforcement helicopters from Kern County, gun volley, bagpipes, color guard and presentation of the casket flag to Deputy Ballantyne’s mother.

Deputy Ballantyne is also survived by his brother, John Ballantyne, and sisters, Mary Benson and JoAnn Coleman.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold

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