Kern's fallen officers honored in ceremonies

Officers take part in a memorial ceremony for National Police Week on Thursday, May 18, 2017 in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Claudette Stefanian?)

Local law enforcement marked national Peace Officers' Memorial Week with two ceremonies on Thursday. Those who died in the line of duty were honored and remembered.

"There's nothing more tragic in our line of work than when we lose an officer," Sheriff Donny Youngblood told Eyewitness News. He stood next to the large monument outside the Kern County Superior Courthouse, where the names of all fallen officers are listed on plaques.

The first was Tehachapi Constable William Metler, who died in a Havilah shooting in 1873. The most recent name is Bakersfield Police Officer David Nelson, who died in a crash during a pursuit in 2015.

A ceremony there started at noon, Bakersfield Police had a ceremony by their headquarters Thursday morning,

"I appreciate the support, the support this community gives us, and they recognize that these officers made the ultimate sacrifice," Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin said.

Officers stood at attention for the color guard, and they had a wreath near their monument with the names of BPD officers who died in the line of duty.

Chief Martin said across the nation 145 officers died in 2016, and he worries about the level of violence police face these days. That's a concern shared by Sheriff Youngblood.

"It's shifted from a lot of (fatal) accidents in vehicles, to ambushes," Youngblood said. "We're here to help people, we're here to serve our community. Sometimes it rubs people the wrong way, we get that. But, the world right now is just kind of upside down, and there's never been a more difficult time."

Still, both lawmen say they believe officers do get local support.

And, they stress it's important to also show support for the families of fallen officers.

At the noon ceremony, Carrie Hudnall and her son, Chancellor, sat up front. Deputy Joe Hudnall died when his patrol car was hit by a drunk driver on Highway 178 in 2006.

Carrie Hudnall said it's been tough to raise their two sons without their dad, and she appreciates the special day of recognition.

"It means that there's still support out there," she told Eyewitness News. "Sometimes you feel very alone." Her son Chancellor wants to go into law enforcement, and Carrie Hudnall said she supports him.

The long list of fallen officers includes Kern County Sheriff officers, Bakersfield Police, a Kernville constable from 1891, some state traffic officers, two Wasco Police officers, a Tehachapi Police Chief, California Highway Patrol officers, and a California Fish and Game warden.

There are also personnel lost from the Kern County Sheriff's reserve unit, Search and Rescue, and a member of the Sheriff's Citizen Service Unit.

The most recent officer death, was David Nelson from BPD.

"He ultimately gave his life doing what he loved," Bakersfield Police Sgt. Ryan Kroeker said, adding that he personally knew Nelson. Kroeker said the death of a fellow officer is very emotional, like a "punch in the gut."

"But, it lets us know that danger is there," Kroeker said. "That this is a dangerous job, but that's what we signed up for."

Kroeker said law enforcement is about service.

"Every Bakersfield Police Department officer serves the community with a servant's heart," Kroeker said. "We want to serve this community, we want to do a good job, we want them to be proud of us."

And, he was pleased to see the community at the memorial service on Thursday.

"To see the turnout that we had, and the different people show up, and just the community supporting us, it lets us know that they do appreciate us," Kroeker said. "That's why we do this job."

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