Kern County's law enforcement community pulled together Monday to show support for the family and memory of a sheriff's deputy killed Sunday in the line of duty.
Deputy Phillip Campas, a five-year veteran of the Kern County Sheriff's Office who had served in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine, was shot and killed during a SWAT operation in Wasco. Four members of a family where the shooting took place, including the suspected gunman, were also killed.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood recalled Campas as an inspiring patrol deputy, part of the SWAT team, an honor guard member and recruit training officer, as well as a father of young daughters.
"He touched everybody in the organization," Youngblood said. "Everybody knew who he was. He was on the honor guard. He was just a star in our organization."
Kern Law Enforcement Association Director Jeremy Storar came to tears when describing Campas' actions on Sunday.
“Deputy Campas, as many of our other brothers and sisters, it makes up who they are, putting the public safety above our own," he said. “We’re human at the end of the day. This is a loss. It’s like losing a brother. He died a hero.”
Another deputy involved in Sunday's SWAT action, 10-year veteran Dizander Guerrero, was treated and released from Kern Medical Sunday night after suffering gunshot wounds to his upper body, the sheriff added.
Praise for Campas came from many quarters, including politicians and law enforcement organizations.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, posted on Facebook that Campas was a hero who lost his life fulfilling his duty to protect the community.
"Judy and I send our deepest condolences to the Campas family, the Kern County Sheriff's Office, our local first responders, and all of Phillip's friends and loved ones," the post said. "We will never forget his sacrifice."
Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, also offered condolences to Campas' family, saying "words cannot adequately express the tremendous grief our community feels." Fong also expressed grief for Guerrero and the other victims of Sunday's shootings.
"We are thankful for the recovery of a second deputy who was wounded, and pray for the emotional well-being of all officers," Fong said in a news release Monday.
The California Highway Patrol's Bakersfield office offered condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Campas and the entire sheriff's office.
The Bakersfield Police Department offered condolences as well to KCSO and its family and friends.
"We stand in unity as we continue to pray for the recovery of our brother and mourn the loss of a true hero," it posted on Facebook. "Please keep the victims of this senseless tragedy in your thoughts and prayers."
Records maintained by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund document 158 officer fatalities so far this year, which is down 6 percent from the same period in 2020. Of the total, 31 were firearms-related, same as last year’s total to this point in 2020.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there have been 18 law enforcement officers in California who died in 2021. It said Campas’ death was the fifth this year related to gunfire.
Capt. Levi Miller with the California Highway Patrol's Bakersfield office called it a horrible tragedy that so many law enforcement officers across the country have been killed this year.
"Definitely there's just too many — way too many," he said. "We've been experiencing over 100 a year for quite some time and it's something that's very concerning for law enforcement." He offered the CHP's condolences for Campas and all who knew him.
Youngblood bemoaned violence against law enforcement and implied the news media had a hand in stoking violence toward law enforcement.
"It seems that we're seeing a trend across this country of violence against police officers," Youngblood said at Monday's news conference as he stood in front of a line of deputies at KCSO headquarters. "And a lot of that is — no offense intended — is driven by the media. We just need some level, honest reporting."
"We're not perfect," he continued. "We do some things that we need to be criticized for. We welcome that, but I think even you all can look across this country at what's occurring and realize this has got to stop."
"We hire from the human race and we get humans," Youngblood added. "We're doing the best that we can, as every other organization in this country is."
The Kern County 999 Foundation, in addition to expressing condolences for Campas' family, friends and fellow deputies, said it is praying for Guerrero's speedy recovery.
Among others expressing grief and condolences for Campas were the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the Kern County District Attorney's Office, which joined others in wishing Guerrero a speedy recovery.