Hundreds watch funeral procession for slain Deputy Darnell Calhoun

Hundreds turned out on a chilly Saturday morning to view a 50-mile funeral procession carrying the casket of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun.

Escorted by authorities, a hearse left a Murrieta funeral home about 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, for a trek north on the 15 Freeway to a Rancho Cucamonga church.

Bundled-up spectators, some with American flags, watched the scene outside Murrieta Valley Funeral Home on Washington Avenue as the casket was loaded into the hearse.

But the crowd had gathered well before that solemn moment.

The flag-draped casket of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun is moved from a Murrieta mortuary Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, before a funeral procession to Rancho Cucamonga. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

The family of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun watches as his flag-draped casket is moved from a Murrieta mortuary Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, before a funeral procession to Rancho Cucamonga. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

Spectators gather on a freeway overpass Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, to watch the funeral procession of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

Law officers gather Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, outside a Murrieta mortuary before a 50-mile funeral procession for Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

More than 200 law enforcement personnel gather Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, outside Murrieta Valley Funeral Home before a 50-mile procession to Rancho Cucamonga for slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

Law officers stand by Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, as the casket of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun is moved to a hearse from a Murrieta funeral home. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco salutes Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, as the flag-draped casket of slain Deputy Darnell Calhoun is moved to a hearse for a procession from Murrieta to Rancho Cucamonga. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

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Sonia Zuber, 53, was in place by 7:30 a.m., awaiting the procession.

“We feel for the family and all the deputies,” said Zuber, who has eaten at the Calhoun family’s Murrieta restaurant and said they are good people.

Zuber said it was horrible that the 30-year-old deputy was “leaving behind a pregnant wife,” but said the public’s support since the tragedy has been tremendous.

“It’s nice to see how the community comes together,” Zuber said.

On Friday, Jan. 13, Calhoun answered a late-afternoon call about possible domestic violence at a home in Lakeland Village near Lake Elsinore. He was shot and taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where he died.

Calhoun was the second Riverside County deputy to die in the line of duty in the past 16 days. Authorities said that Jesse Navarro, 42, shot Calhoun and engaged in a gunfight with the second deputy to arrive. He remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Calhoun was assigned to the San Diego Police Department in 2019 before transferring to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 2022.

As the time for Saturday’s procession drew nearer, more people began to gather.

Karen Picone, a 46-year-old Temecula resident, walked up with a hot coffee and her two young children, 8 and 12. Both girls held small American flags and wore red coats.

Bringing her daughters was a way to show them that officers “do it for the love of community and the love of the country,” said Picone, whose husband is in law enforcement.

Calhoun’s 10 a.m. funeral at Abundant Living Family Church will be livestreamed on the Riverside County Sheriff’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

People lined freeway overpasses to watch the procession.

In Norco, on the Hamner Avenue and Fifth Street overpass above the 15 Freeway were a handful of people. Two men carried American flags — one red, white and blue, the other blue, black and white.

Among those waiting was Greg Stevens, 65, a retired Riverside County firefighter.

“When there’s a loss, I feel it internally,” Stevens said. “As family, the very last thing I can do is show my support.”

“Sometimes there are no words” he said. “It’s an unnecessary sacrifice.”

Passing cars and trucks honked their horn in support of those gathered.

After Calhoun’s killing, the public outpouring of support was immediate.

On Saturday, Jan. 14, the day after the shooting, mourners left flowers, hand-written messages and candles outside Calhoun’s Family Texas Barbeque, which is run by the deputy’s parents.

Support for the family didn’t stop there.

Related links

Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed near Lake Elsinore
Mourners stream to Murrieta restaurant owned by family of slain deputy
McDonald’s restaurants will raise funds for family of slain sheriff’s deputy
Second vigil for slain Deputy Darnell Calhoun is held in Murrieta
Riverside County deputies died in two of the most unpredictable encounters with public

A Go Fund Me page was created for the restaurant. In five days, it surpassed its goal of $10,000. A second fundraiser, organized by the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff’s Relief Foundation, was established for the Calhoun family. And, on Friday, Jan. 20, some McDonald’s franchises in southwest Riverside County donated 25% of their sales to the family.

Also, Calhoun’s widow, Vanessa, accepted a mortgage-free home from the nonprofit Tunnel to Tower Foundation, a news release states.

The killing, which so closely followed another deputy’s shooting, rocked the sheriff’s department and the community.

Isaiah Cordero, a sheriff’s deputy was killed during a traffic stop in Jurupa Valley on Dec. 29.

The gunman, William Shae McKay, led law enforcement vehicles on a pursuit south on the 15 Freeway, crashing in Norco and then exchanging gunfire with officers. McKay was killed.

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