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Fallen officers honored at annual memorial service
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A large contingency of law enforcement officers from throughout Stanislaus County paused Wednesday to remember all the many officers who have been killed in the line of duty in 2011, as well as countywide since 1935. - photo by SABRA STAFFORD / The Journal

Hundreds of law enforcement and community members gathered Wednesday at Lakewood Memorial Park to pay tribute to those peace officers who lost their lives in the line of duty last year.

The Stanislaus County Peace Officer Association’s annual memorial service for fallen officers was an emotional gathering for many of those in attendance, given the recent losses suffered by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.

Though the service was honoring those who died in 2011, the loss this year of Crime Scene Technician Mary Donahou and Dep. Robert Paris was a fresh reminder of the dangerous work law enforcement performs daily.

“It’s not how they died that made them heroes,” Sheriff Adam Christianson said in recalling the losses. “It’s how they lived and served.”

From 1935 to 2011, there were 13 law enforcement members killed in the line of duty in Stanislaus County. The county went more than 30 years without a line of duty death until Ceres Police Sgt. Howard Stevenson was gunned down on Jan. 9, 2005. The following year California Highway Patrol Officer Earl Scott was fatally shot during a traffic stop. In 2009, Modesto Police Sgt. Steve May died from injuries he suffered seven years prior when his patrol car was rammed by a suspect.

Donahou was killed in January when she was struck by a vehicle while at a crime scene.

Paris was gunned down in April while attempting an eviction in Modesto.

“They sacrificed themselves for the cause of justice; to keep our streets safe,” Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Chaplain Michael Douglass said of the fallen law enforcement.

California saw 10 law enforcement members killed in the line of duty in 2011.

The ceremony included a helicopter flyover, a rifle salute, and an equestrian and motorcade procession.

The service’s keynote speaker was Stevenson’s son, Bryce Stevenson, who is pursuing his own career in law enforcement. Stevenson reminded the crowd that the service was a time to honor those who had been lost, as well as an opportunity to “thank those that continue to serve.”