Local sheriff's deputy honored in DC

Nearly nine months after his murder, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy was honored today at a police memorial in the nation's capital. KPCC's Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde reports.

Kitty Felde: They gather every spring in downtown Washington, D.C. Police officers honor their own by witnessing as the inscription of the names of fallen officers on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Bernetta Spence – the research director at the Memorial – says the annual ceremony began 18 years ago.

Bernetta Spence: At the time it was dedicated, it dedicated with 12,500 names on it. We now have more than 18,000 names of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty, with the first officer from New York, Isaac Smith. He was killed in 1792.

Felde: This past year, 133 officers died in the line of duty. That's the fewest since 1960. The ceremony honored officers from Maryland, Alabama, and Southern California.

[Announcement: Deputy Juan Escalante, of the Los Angeles County California Sheriff's office. End of watch: August 2, 2008.]

Felde: Juan Escalante was shot and killed in front of his Cypress park home last summer as he leaving for work. Two reputed gang members were arrested in December. They'll be tried for his murder.

[Sound of honor guard]

Felde: A police honor guard and dozens of law enforcement officers from local departments came to show their respect – not only for the Maryland officer they worked with, but for the sheriff's deputy from California they never met. Captain Mistinette Mints is with the Prince George's County Police Department in Maryland.

Mistinette Mints: I mean, we all do the same job. Just wear a different patch and badge. Just because our uniforms might not be the same color, we all have the same heart and we all experience the same things and go into situations where you don't know if you'll come out or not. I think we all understand that. That is a bond, an unspoken bond no matter how away you work from each other, it's in your blood.

[Sound of engraving]

Felde: Officers gathered around the marble walls and watched engravers sandblast the finishing touches on the names. It's the same company that engraves names in the Vietnam Memorial.

And like that memorial, family members can rub pencil over paper to make an impression to take home with them. Juan Escalante's name will be ready for his family when they come to Washington.

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