The funeral for slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun is Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. (Courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff’s Department)
A church full of law enforcement officers, family and friends is saying farewell Saturday, Jan. 21, to Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun.
The service, at Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga, is underway after a 50-mile procession from a Murrieta mortuary that saw hundreds line streets and 15 Freeway overpasses to pay their respects.
To begin the service, Daniel Johnson sang “You are Holy.”
In his remarks, Abundant Living Founding Pastor Diego Mesa acknowledged the hurt and anger that people are feeling over Calhoun’s death.
“We might be more envious and jealous if we saw him in the presence of God,” Mesa said.
Danny Young, a retired lieutenant from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and a Calhoun family friend, then spoke, saying he knew Calhoun since he was 10.
“What he’s been most consistently in his life has been his willingness to serve. … He willingly went out daily to serve mankind,” Young said. “He put service above self as the motto reads on the side of his patrol car.”
He then asked the audience to stand up and applaud Calhoun for his life of service.
A short video of former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal offering condolences was played at the start of a video showing a montage of photos from Calhoun’s life and career.
As he has at the Jan. 6 funeral for slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Isaiah Cordero and vigils this week for Calhoun, Sheriff Chad Bianco took the podium.
Bianco said his department had not had enough time to process Cordero’s slaying two weeks before Calhoun was killed.
He praised the Calhoun family for have a “strong and unwavering belief in Jesus Christ.”
Concluding his remarks, Bianco turned to Calhoun’s widow, Vanessa, saying “while you and the boys have lost Darnell, you have 4,000 aunts and uncles at your beckon call.”
The church set up outdoor seating for the public to watch a livestream on a giant screen on a cool morning under sunny skies.
Corona’s Bob Newman was among the many police chiefs attending the slain deputy’s memorial. He also went to the Jan. 6 service for Deputy Isaiah Cordero, who was killed during a Jurupa Valley traffic stop.
“To have two (deputy slayings) so close, I’m concerned for the police and the sheriff but also I’m concerned for our community,” Newman said.
“And why? Why is this happening?” asked Newman, who said answers are difficult to come by.
“You can’t ask rational questions about irrational behavior.”
On Jan. 13, Calhoun, 30, became the department’s second deputy to be violently killed in the line of duty in a span of 16 days after the department went almost two decades without an on-duty slaying of a deputy. In all, 72 city and county law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty.
On Dec. 29, motorcycle Deputy Isaiah Cordero, 32, a graduate of Cajon High School in San Bernardino, was ambushed by wanted felon William Shae McKay, 44, during a traffic stop in Jurupa Valley. He was remembered by the community as a dedicated, friendly officer who went the extra mile to help children. McKay was killed in a gun battle with police after a pursuit that ended in Norco.
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Before 2022, the last Riverside County deputy to be killed by violence was Bruce Kevin Lee, in May 2003. Since then a sergeant has died from a heart attack, a deputy has died in a traffic collision, and two deputies have died from COVID-19, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Calhoun was gunned down seconds after he arrived on Hilldale Lane in the Lakeland Village community near Lake Elsinore. The Sheriff’s Department identified the shooter as Jesse C. Navarro, who was described in court filings by his wife as a meth addict who once pulled a gun on her. Navarro, 42, was last reported in critical condition in a hospital after Calhoun’s backup shot him.
Born in Pomona, Calhoun grew up in Murrieta, where he was homeschooled and his parents run a restaurant. Calhoun himself had worked at Calhoun’s Texas Family Barbeque. Earlier this week, vigils outside the sheriff’s station in Lake Elsinore — where he was stationed — and in a Murrieta park honored him.
Hundreds attended the vigils and have donated to the family. And Calhoun’s wife, Vanessa, who is pregnant, accepted an offer from a nonprofit foundation for a mortgage-free home. The couple has two children.
A former San Diego Police Department officer, Calhoun loved football, according to the program handed out at the service. The program features a photo of him clad in a Philadelphia Eagles jersey.