The community and the Bakersfield Police Department lost a good man this summer. Sgt. Dennis Moore, a colleague and friend, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Aug. 9. He understood the inherent dangers of the profession and faithfully served the citizens of Bakersfield for more than 20 years.
Sgt. Moore is the ninth Bakersfield Police Officer to be killed in the line of duty. The first was Thomas Jefferson Packard, who died on April 20, 1903.
Packard was a Bakersfield city marshal. He and Deputy Marshal William E. Tibbet were both killed in a shootout with Jim McKinney. It has long been considered among the last of the Old West gunfights.
Unfortunately, Sgt. Moore’s death is the second line-of-duty death in two years for our department. On June 26, 2015, Bakersfield Police Officer David Nelson lost his life in the line of duty while protecting the citizens of our great city. Before Officer Nelson, our community went 32 years without a line-of-duty death.
The origins of the memorial run began in 1983. Officer Bill Sikola was in pursuit of a suspect when his police motorcycle developed a high-speed wobble and crashed. He left behind a wife and three children under the age of 6.
After his death, several BPD officers, including Brad Norris and Toby Paulsen, who had attended the police academy with Sikola, were concerned about how to help his surviving family. They especially wanted to make certain his children would have the ability to attend college.
Norris and Paulsen were both runners. They thought a memorial run would be a good way to raise money. Skeptics questioned if a run would attract any community support.
The two continued forward and organized the William L. Sikola Memorial Run. The path of the original run began and ended at Beach Park on 21st and Oak streets. The 5K ran along the bike path. The 10K wound through Westchester, down to the San Dimas area and back. To everyone’s delight and surprise, the community’s support during the first year produced 500 people registered with 450 runners.
In the second and third years, the race was renamed the Vegas-Sikola Memorial Run to also recognize Sergeant Patrick Vegas. In 1980 Vegas died when his police motorcycle was struck by a car while he was responding to another accident. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Vegas left behind a wife and two children under the age of 7.
The goal of the run evolved to create a sustaining fund from each year’s proceeds to help all surviving children of BPD officers killed in the line of duty to attend college.
The run was subsequently renamed and remains the Bakersfield Police Memorial Run. On Saturday, Nov. 4, the 35th annual memorial run will be held at the Park at Riverwalk. Registration starts at 6 a.m. The fee is $25 prior to race day, and $30 at the race. For more information and to register, go to www.bakersfieldpd.us or call 326-3685.
Bakersfield Police officers rest well at the end of their shifts knowing this community is so supportive. The men and women of your BPD continue to stand ready to provide outstanding service and partner with you to make our city safe for all.
The nine names that are engraved on the BPD memorial in front of department's headquarters will never be forgotten for their bravery and dedication. We pray that we will never need these funds, but we will always need your support.
All proceeds go to the children of fallen BPD officers. Please join us this year for this fun-filled family event.
Lyle Martin is the chief of the Bakersfield Police Department.