I take the wheel and lead respect in an emotional farewell to a 23-year-old Bakersfield, Calif. police officer.
On Tuesday, March 27, under the sunny skies of Bakersfield, Calif., 23-year old police officer Trevor Jones was laid to rest while hundreds of uniformed police officers and firefighters watched on.
The procession was led by Jones’ patrol car, followed by the hearse, four limousines and at least 20 police motorcycles and hundreds of law enforcement vehicles from the Bakersfield Police Department, California Highway Patrol and representatives from departments in El Segundo, Porterville, Visalia, Delano, McFarland, Fish & Game, Kern County Sheriff’s Department, and local fire agencies.
Making this event more tragic is the fact that Jones’ wedding to fiancee Ashley VanZant was to be held this Saturday. His life was cut short by a sudden and unexplained heart attack.
Separate limousines were provided for Jones’ parents and siblings, for Ashley and her parents and siblings, and two additional limousines for Jones’ aunts, uncles and cousins.
The funeral presented unique challenges as Ashley was not considered a widow in the official police handling of the funeral event, as she and Trevor were not yet officially married. Protocol dictates that an unmarried officer’s parents are treated as the next of kin. However, special arrangements were made to make flag presentations to Ashley and Jones’ mother. Both flags were flags flown on multiple days at half-staff in memory of the officer. The procession also had police cars follow the hearse, with the exception of the officer’s actual patrol car that led the procession without the use of emergency lights. Had the officer died in the line of duty, protocol would dictate the officer’s body would be lead by official police escorts and followed by police escorts and then the family limousines.
The service got off to a rocky start as a singer began to perform and then inexplicably passed out at the pulpit as the music begin to play. Despite hundreds of uniformed first responders being present, only two Boy Scouts ran to the aid of the fallen lady. They summoned fire department crews, present with apparatus to display a gigantic flag from a ladder truck. The fire department personnel, dressed in Class A parade uniforms ran to their truck to get medical equipment. As they beginning providing treatment, a police explorer who had been standing at attention in the church for several hours also just dropped to the ground. His fellow explorers all ran to his aid without hesitation and then summoned their adult advisor from her pew in the church. An ambulance was called for both attendees and then services resumed.
I took great pride in planning with my team of four chauffeurs that we would always open all four doors of the limos in unison with one chauffeur setting the lead. As family departed the car at the church, at the cemetery, and back at the church reception, we would stand at attention, facing the same direction in exactly the same spot next to our respective limousines. As the family reboarded at each movement, we would stand at the car, and if one door was opened, all doors were opened. We performed with precision. Today, I have a sunburned head and my face looks like a raccoon. In an extreme moment of luck, the alternator on one of the vehicles failed after completing the final drop off of the family. The chauffeur was at a gas station so no passenger service was interrupted. Whew.
Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor
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