Second vigil for slain Deputy Darnell Calhoun is held in Murrieta

The second vigil in two days for a slain Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy was staged Wednesday evening, Jan. 18 — this time in his hometown of Murrieta.

On Tuesday night, Jan. 17, hundreds gathered outside the sheriff’s station in Lake Elsinore to honor Darnell Calhoun. On Wednesday, the community salute shifted to Town Square Park Amphitheater in the city where Calhoun grew up and his parents still run a restaurant.

Hundreds of people attend a memorial vigil for slain Riverside County Deputy Darnell Calhoun in Murrieta on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Isac Pacheco, of Murrieta, stops to write a note at the growing memorial for slain Riverside County Deputy Darnell Calhoun on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at his family’s restaurant in Murrieta. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

A photo of slain Riverside County Deputy Darnell Calhoun is on display as people arrive for a memorial in Murrieta on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

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Calhoun, 30, was shot and killed near Lake Elsinore on Friday, Jan. 13. He was responding to a domestic violence call when the suspected gunman, Jesse Navarro, 42, opened fire. Calhoun was the department’s second officer to die in the line of duty in 16 days. It had gone nearly two decades without the on-duty killing of a deputy.

RELATED: Vigil salutes Darnell Calhoun, slain Riverside County sheriff’s deputy

The day after his death, Calhoun’s Texas Family Barbeque was met with a stream of support from the community. Residents laid bouquets of flowers, signs and notes of support for the family near the door of the restaurant, which remains closed.

At Wednesday’s vigil, Mireya Sanchez, 42, clutched a single white rose as her two children, 2 and 4, stood at her feet.

She had no connection to the Calhoun family.

“It’s a very sad situation,” Sanchez said before the ceremony.

It was important for her young children to understand the meaning of the event, she said.

“I want them to know this officer risked his life protecting others and that they shouldn’t be afraid of cops,” Sanchez said.

Ray Santos, a 66-year-old Murrieta resident, knew Calhoun through his parents, who attend the same church as Santos, Faith Bible Church.

“We were shocked, of course,” Santos said of hearing about Calhoun’s death.

“It’s been hard for the church,” he said. “We’re praying.”

“We know he’s in good hands and he’s with the Lord,” Santos said.

As the vigil got underway, Murrieta Police Department Chaplin Steve Wimberly expressed gratitude that Calhoun answered the call to become a deputy.

“I’m thankful for the lives Darnell touched on this earth,” Wimberly said.

Murrieta Mayor Lisa DeForest spoke next, saying she is married to a deputy and lives with the fear of receiving a phone call if her husband were injured.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco took the podium at a vigil for Calhoun for the second night in a row. Sniffles could be heard in the crowd.

“In times like this we struggle to find words, action, anything we can do to try and help and we have to admit that it’s difficult…” he said.

“Having to tell the family,” he said before pausing, “that the doctors were not able to save him is something I will never forget.”

Local officials should support law enforcement and public safety, he said. And if they don’t, Bianco said, they shouldn’t be in office — a statement that was met with applause from the crowd.

Murrieta Police Officer Colin Acda closed the vigil by singing “Amazing Grace.”

The amphitheater lights were dimmed as hundreds of candles were slowly lit across the crowd.

Candles and phones were raised in the air as Acda sang on the chilly night.

The crowd then prepared to be led on a procession downtown toward the Calhoun family’s restaurant — an approximately eight-minute walk from the venue. When they arrived, most of the hundreds gathered stood in silence with lit candles in hand. Some wiped away tears. Others tried to get closer to the locked door. A low hum of “Amazing Grace” started. Before leaving, attendees were invited to leave a single white rose by the restaurant.

Many took a few seconds to write a comment to the family on posters and a white board taped to the restaurant’s windows. Some left their rose and walked away. Others lingered.

Related links

McDonald’s restaurants will raise funds for family of slain sheriff’s deputy
Vigil salutes Darnell Calhoun, slain Riverside County sheriff’s deputy
Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed near Lake Elsinore
Community vigil for slain sheriff’s deputy to be held in Lake Elsinore on Tuesday evening
Mourners stream to Murrieta restaurant owned by family of slain deputy
Lake Elsinore man, 42, is accused of shooting and killing Riverside County deputy

There are several community efforts for the Calhoun family.

A Go Fund Me account was created to support the family restaurant. A second fundraiser was created for the family by the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff’s Relief Foundation, a non-profit charity that helps law enforcement families through emergencies such as injury, sickness and death.

“He will be remembered as a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, a son-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a loyal friend,” the foundation’s fundraiser states.

Also, some McDonald’s franchises in southwest Riverside County will donate a portion of sales Friday, Jan. 20, to the Calhoun family.

The shooting came a week after the funeral of Deputy Isaiah Cordero, 32, who was shot to death during a traffic stop in Jurupa Valley. The gunman, William Shae McKay, was killed at the end of a car chase in Norco.

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