2007 – Manuel Villegas – Deputy – Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

Deputy Manuel Villegas

During the early morning hours of Monday, March 19th, 2007, Deputy Manuel ‘Manny’ Villegas was working the unincorporated, agricultural communities of Thermal and Mecca, in the area of Pierce Street and Avenue 63. He was en route to back-up a fellow deputy when another driver traveling in the opposite direction veered into Manny’s path and both drivers were killed.
Though he was only 33 years old at the time of his death, Manny had lived the life many men strive for, but fall short of. He was a husband, a father, a decorated combat veteran, a friend and valued beat partner.
Manny served his country in both the United States Marine Corps as an infantryman with the First Marine Division and later as a member of the US Army’s elite Special Forces. It was as a Green Beret where Manny served in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan during the War on Terror and his exploits on the battlefield earned him the Bronze Star with Combat ‘V’.
Manny brought his quiet leadership, keen sense of humor and esprit de corps to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in November of 2005. He attended the Sheriff’s Basic Academy where he graduated first in his class, was awarded the California Academy Directors Association Award for being the most inspirational student to his classmates and instructors. Along the way he set the Academy record for the mile and a half run, with a scorching time of 8:01.
Manny reported to the Indio Sheriff’s Station in May 2006 and this quiet, unassuming man quickly became a favorite among his peers, his supervisors and the public he served. It wasn’t until Manny’s death that his co-workers learned of his battlefield commendations and his certification as one of the Army’s elite parachutists.
Deputy Manuel Villegas was buried with full military honors in Bakersfield, California. He is survived by his wife Xochitl and his four children, daughter Stacie Lee and sons Ezequiel, Israel and Xavier.

2003 – Brent C. Jenkins – Deputy – Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

Deputy Brent Jenkins Deputy

Brent C. Jenkins, 45, became the fifth member of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, assigned to the San Gorgonio Pass, and the third from the Cabazon Station to die in the line of duty since 1997.

On Tuesday, March 18, Jenkins became the latest fatality when the 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV he was driving drifted off Interstate 10 in Beaumont and slammed into a tree about 4:30 a.m.

According to witnesses, Jenkins was driving about 70 mph when his vehicle drifted over one eastbound lane, without braking, and then left the road. He was wearing his seat belt and shoulder harness, authorities said.

A native of Utah, Jenkins attended four years of seminary in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He joined the Sheriff’s Department in 1990 and worked in the Pass area for the last five years. His wife, and six children survive him.

2003 – Bruce Kevin Lee – Deputy – Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

Deputy Bruce Lee

The end of watch came on May 13, 2003 for Deputy Bruce K. Lee. Lee responded to a disturbing the peace call in La Quinta. Immediately upon arrival, Lee was confronted by a mentally disturbed twenty-four-year-old Kevin Diablo, who was known to have had prior difficulties with the law.
In attempting to question and reason with Diablo, a physical encounter ensued, and Diablo was able to secure Lee’s police baton. He inflicted severe blows to the deputy’s head and neck, resulting in massive trauma.
A back-up deputy, responding to Lee’s call for assistance, arrived at the scene and observed Lee’s motionless body lying on the ground. Still brandishing the police baton, Diablo immediately confronted the back-up deputy.
When Diablo ignored the command to drop the baton, and continued to advance toward the deputy in a threatening manner, the deputy fired his service weapon, mortally wounding Diablo.
Lee’s attraction to law enforcement was sparked in 1968, when as an 11-year-old, he watched an Inglewood police officer arrest a man for stealing a car and attempting to steal gasoline from Lee’s father’s service station. Years later, Lee was partnered with that same Inglewood policeman’s son, Michael Manning. A 22-year veteran of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Lee was assigned to Indio Station. His wife of nine years, mother, father and sister survived him.

1999 – Eric Andrew Thach – Deputy – Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

Deputy Eric Thach

During the early afternoon hours on Friday, October 8, 1999, Deputy Eric Thach was dispatched to a report of an open door at a residence in Pedley.
Deputy Thach walked in on a home invasion robbery. At this point, Deputy Thach broadcast an 11-99 (officer needs immediate assistance).
Deputy Thach was apparently checking alongside the residence when he was shot through a window from inside the residence. Following the shooting, the suspect fled the residence, and ran into the Santa Ana riverbed. Units responding to the 11-99 were on scene within one minute of the broadcast.
Units responding to the scene pulled Deputy Thach from the area of the residence and administered first aid. It appeared Deputy Thach had been shot with a large caliber weapon. Deputy Thach was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The suspect was subsequently shot and fatally wounded during the search of the riverbed.