Peace Officers Memorial Day came and went on Saturday with no proclamations or observances by the City of Colusa, the City of Williams, or the Colusa County Board of Supervisors.
The national memorial event, observed throughout the United States, pays tribute to local, state, Tribal, and federal law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice or were injured in the line of duty.
The Memorial Day observance takes place annually at the end of National Police Week, May 10-14.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund, more than 800,000 law enforcement officers serve in the United States today.
Each year, the National Memorial adds new names to the wall, averaging about 163 new deaths per year of officers mourned by their families and communities.
According to the Memorial Fund, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for law enforcement, with 295 officers dying in the line of duty, up from 135 in 2019. In 2021, as of last week, there have been 125 police officers nationwide who have died in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Two officers killed worked for the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office and two for the Colusa Police Department. A California Fish and Game warden and a Davis Police Officer, both Colusa County residents, were also killed in the line of duty.
Colusa County Sheriff’s Deputy John A. McClain, 38, was killed on Sept. 27, 1870, in a shootout while serving an eviction notice on squatters in the Antelope Valley, west of Maxwell.
McClain was shot in the head and died instantly. Roy Hamilton and his brother also shot and killed E.P. Wells and property owner Alonzo Stewart. They then shot James Gongwer, who survived. The three men had accompanied McClain to the property that day. The Hamilton brothers, who escaped after the shootout, were never brought to justice.
McClain left a wife and four children.
Colusa Town Marshal John T. Arnold, 30, was shot and killed on March 2, 1878, at a store on Market and Fifth streets (Odd Fellows Building) by former District Attorney Dudley Shepardson.
Shepardson, who was later acquitted of murder, shot Arnold four times as Arnold approached him to serve a misdemeanor warrant. Arnold had been a local peace officer for 10 years. He left a wife and two children.
Colusa Town Marshal Jasper Newton Scroggins, 60, was shot and killed by an ex-con on April 18, 1919, in a barn that was located on the corner of Bridge and Webster streets. The killer, Thomas Woods, spent the rest of his life in prison.
Scroggins, who was a Colusa peace officer for 23 years, left a wife and two adult children.
Colusa County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael W. McClung, 23, of Williams, was killed July 2, 1984, after being hit by a train while on patrol near Myers Road. He was killed instantly. He left a wife and 8-month-old-son.
Game Warden Leon H. Nelson, 36, of Colusa, was killed in a vehicle accident while on patrol in the Mendocino National Forest in Glenn County on Oct. 27, 1979. He left a wife and four children.
All five men are on the California Peace Officers’ Memorial in Capitol Park, Sacramento, and the National Memorial in Baltimore, Maryland.
Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona, of Arbuckle, was added to the State Capitol Memorial and National Memorial Wall in 2020.
Corona, 22, was shot and killed while working a traffic accident on Jan. 10, 2019. The gunman was found dead the following day of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Corona left behind her parents, Colusa County Supervisor Merced Corona, who retired from the Colusa County Sheriff’s Department, and Pierce Joint Unified School District teacher Lupe Corona, along with three younger sisters, Jackie, Cathy, and Cindy.
Colusa County has had many peace officers injured in the line of duty.
Among those injured in the line of duty was Williams California Highway Patrol Officer Philip Martinson, who was stabbed in the back by a motorist during a traffic stop on Interstate 5 near Myers Road, in Williams, on Feb. 19, 2019.
Haile Neil, 25, had been driving 100 mph when Martinson pulled her over.
Neil later committed suicide in the Colusa County Jail while awaiting trial.
“Every morning, our Nation’s law enforcement officers pin on a badge and go to work, not knowing what the day will bring, and hoping to return home safely,” President Joe Biden said in a proclamation. “As we recognize Peace Officer Memorial Day and Police Week, we honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty, and thank them on behalf of this grateful nation for their service.”
Biden, on May 10, directed flags to be flown at half-staff on Saturday, but reversed that directive late Friday evening because Saturday was Armed Forces Day.
The U.S. Flag code directs flags to be flown at half-staff on Peace Officer Memorial Day, unless it coincides with Armed Forces Day when flags are to be flown at full-staff. §