Tribute to a Deputy
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An emotional farewell to a fallen Sheriff's Deputy, thousands of law enforcement agents from all over the state gathered at a Fresno church to pay tribute to Joel Wahlenmaier.
The 49-year-old homicide detective was shot and killed last week while serving a search warrant in the town of Minkler.
Surrounded by family, friends, and thousands from the law enforcement community, Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier's wife and two children sobbed as people shared touching stories about the fallen deputy.
"I believe Wally made each one of us that knew him a better person ... a better person by understanding what's important in life."
Those who worked closely with Wahlenmaier described him as a man of passion, for his family, his job and the outdoors.
"Joel was a hotshot. He used to jumping into wilderness fires from airplanes and had a lifetime of trekking deer all over these hills."
Sheriff Margaret Mims struggled to find the words to describe the department's loss.
"Joel Wahlenmeier was a hero by how he lived. We're all left behind to try and find meaning in his loss. There's no words that can bring him back."
To his children, Amy and Austin, longtime friends reminded them how proud they made their father and encouraged them to carry on his legacy.
Deputy Joe Smith spoke directly to Wahlenmaier's daughter about a comment she made shortly after his sudden death.
"You told your grandpa that you just wanted Wally to walk you down. And you wanted him to be there to meet his grandkids. But you know what Amy; he is going to be there. He's going to be there in spirit, god's going to let you borrow him to walk you down the aisle. He's going to be there stroking the hair of your kids when they are born in the hospital."
After the hour long memorial service, Wahlenmaier's draped casket was escorted to the Clovis cemetery.
In a show of solidarity, law enforcement vehicles from all over the state joined the procession, as people who did not even know Wahlenmaier lined the streets, paying their respects.
"You know, one day you can be there with your family and then the next time you can be gone, you know?"
Led by a rider less horse, Wahlenmaier arrived at his final resting place.
There, he was give a 21-gun salute, a bagpiper played amazing grace, helicopters flew overhead in a missing man formation, and white doves were released.
Those who attended the service say it was a fitting tribute.
"When you're in law enforcement, you're in a family and the family goes throughout the state and throughout the country so we come together during these sad times to heal each other."
But perhaps the most sobering moment was Wahlenmaier's final farewell, made by a dispatcher broadcasting his new assignment.
"End of watch, February 25, 2010. 2 David 14 has been preempted for new assignment. Search and rescue from heaven. Rest in peace Wally."
About 3,000 ... People attended Wednesday's service, including the family of Javier Bejar, the Reedley Officer also killed in last week's shootout.
shooting, crimetracker, fresno county, reedley, local
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