Shot to death on Nov. 6, 1873, Contable William S. Mettler was the first Kern County peace officer killed in the line of duty.
Since then, 57 others in Kern have died while performing the duties they swore to uphold, California Highway Patrol Capt. Scot Loetscher said Thursday during the annual Peace Officers Memorial ceremony in front of Kern County Superior Court.
"There are some real heroes here in Kern County who made the ultimate sacrifice, and we want to make sure we remember them," Loetscher said.
And they were remembered, not only by dozens of officers from the Sheriff's Office, Bakersfield Police Department, CHP and other agencies, but family of those who died while on duty and members of the public who showed up in support. Prayers were said in memory of them, and also asking for the safety and protection of those who still serve.
BPD Chief Lyle Martin thanked the families in attendance for "sharing your loved ones" with law enforcement.
In briefly touching on the BPD's two most recent in the line of duty deaths, Martin said justice was served with the murder conviction last month of Julian Hernandez, who was sentenced to 31 years to life in the 2015 death of Officer David Nelson. Hernandez led Nelson on a high-speed chase in which the officer crashed and died.
The chief said 47 officers were killed by gunfire nationwide in 2017. And, hitting closer to home, he said, another 14 died from heart attacks.
That was the case with Sgt. Dennis Moore, who died Aug. 9 of last year while preparing for work. His name has been added to the department's memorial honoring those who have died in the line of duty.
It's not just the families that mourn law enforcement deaths — other officers also feel the pain, said Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
He said he can recall each phone call he's received during the course of his career regarding an officer's death, and how it impacted him. Most recently in his own department it happened with Deputy James Throne, who died in a crash involving another deputy in 2008.
"This is a unique county in that all the officers in Kern County are brothers, and we work together like no other county," Youngblood said.