memorial run

Participants cross the finish line at the Bakersfield Police Department Memorial Run.

Growing up, Matthew Johnson always wanted to be like his dad who retired as a deputy sheriff lieutenant with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

“When I told my dad I wanted to be a police officer he told me something that has always stuck with me,” recalled Johnson, 28. “He told me that in law enforcement you will not become rich, but every day you go home you will have the opportunity to feel like you were able to make a difference in someone’s life. That satisfaction, and knowing you can make a difference, is more important than any amount of wealth. I wanted to become a police officer in order to make a positive impact in someone’s life.”

Johnson, a native of Clovis, was an infantryman in the California Army National Guard from 2010 to 2016. He’s presently finishing up a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University.

Hired by the Bakersfield Police Department in 2014, Johnson became a patrol officer in 2015. That same year he also became a member of the bicycle rodeo unit providing bicycle safety education and awareness to school children.

On a hot August night in 2017, Johnson and his partner were attacked and struck by multiple gunshots. 

“The attack was violent and fast. We had responded to a domestic peace disturbance,” recalled Johnson. “During the gunfight I exchanged gunfire with the suspect. I was struck on my belt line, chest and left arm. Luckily, my handcuff case stopped the round to my belt line and my bullet resistant vest stopped the round that struck my chest. 

“I didn’t have time to think about anything else during the incident. Afterwards, I knew the wound to my left arm was serious because I had difficulty getting my arm to function. That’s was when my priorities in life became clear. I remember thinking I was going home to see my girlfriend, who is now my wife. I had to get back home to her and to my family.”

Presently, Johnson is a member of the Special Enforcement Unit (Gang Unit) as a gang intelligence officer. He plans to be on-hand at this year’s memorial run.

“Being a Police Officer is a dangerous job, and that means we don’t always know if we are going to be able to come home to our loved ones at the end of the day,” notes Johnson. “Events like the memorial run help provide law enforcement officers with the assurance that their families will be taken care of in the event they aren’t able to make it home at the end of their shift.”

The 37th annual Bakersfield Police Memorial Run is Saturday at the Park at River Walk. Proceeds from the run benefit the educational needs of surviving children of BPD officers killed in the line of duty.

“Law enforcement is a small family and we are extremely appreciative of the support that we receive from the community in order to make this happen,” added Johnson. “None of this could happen without their support.”

This year’s run will be held at the Park at River Walk. Registration is at 6 a.m. The race will begin at 8 a.m. Registration is online at www.KernEventRegistration.com or email BPDruns@gmail.com with any questions.

Maureen Buscher-Dang is a Bakersfield public relations consultant.