Unlike many people, Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony “Tony” Olson loved to come to work – and everyone at work loved to be around him.
He will be remembered for his great sense of humor, his energy, his positive attitude and his bounty of ideas.
Olson, 36, died of burns and smoke inhalation on Tuesday, September 24, 1996, when his patrol car skidded off the road and slid over a 400-foot cliff. “He was following another deputy on a domestic disturbance call,” Sheriff Norman Hicks said.
“We really don’t know what happened,” Hicks stated, “The weather was clear and the road was dry.”
The other deputy lost communication with Olson en route and when he failed to arrive at the scene of the disturbance, he drove back down the Arroyo Seco Road until he saw flames from the wreckage.
“Both deputies were rolling on ‘Code 3,’ with red lights and sirens on, as required by law if officers are likely to exceed the speed limit,” Hicks said.
The patrol car Olson was driving was a 1996 Ford Crown Victoria, the only current model of car that comes with a police. package Olson had no record of accidents as a deputy, and his efficiency reports described him as a good driver.
Olson, a Monterey resident, had been with the department for 4 1/2 years. Initially, he worked in corrections, but had served as a patrol officer for the last 14 months. He also patrolled lake San Antonio, driving a Sheriff’s Department jet ski.
“He was a creative, energetic, friendly and funny fellow,” said Lt. Dave Allard. “It’s a real loss to the community as well as the department.”
Olson was “very well-liked,” according to Sgt. Bruce Palmer, who worked with the deputy in the Monterey substation “People loved to be around him. He always walked in with a mischievous look in his eye, like he knew a joke you weren’t privy to yet,” said Palmer, “I never heard him complain about late detail or uncomfortable calls.”
Allard said Olson exemplified the department’s desire to incorporate more of a community-policing stance into its role.
“He epitomized the kind of energetic, creative, service-oriented person that we want. He was one of those people who had the community-oriented ideas that the sheriff has been promoting within our department and working toward for so long.”
On his own initiative, Olson implemented the first jet-ski patrol on lake San Antonio. He obtained a jet-ski under a “Law Loaner” program from Kawasaki.
“He was so excited about the jet ski,” said Palmer. “He was just proud as punch. He thought it was the greatest thing in the world.”
Olson volunteered to patrol the lake during the summers. “His patrol helped immensely,” said Allard. “It helped the department enforce water boating laws and helped with public safety by making sure people were properly using the waterways and facilities.”
Allard said Olson’s patrol kept the area safe for children, swimmers and other boaters.
According to Palmer, a press conference was held at the lake announcing the acquisition of the jet ski and the water patrol program. Shortly after the conference, while people were still milling around, there was a call for a medical emergency across the lake. Olson responded on the jet ski.
Palmer remembers the day fondly. “He hopped on his noble steed right away. The call was for a man who had had a heart attack across the lake. Olson had cut the response time by – well, a lot! He had fun coming to work… “He was just a rare guy,” said Palmer, fighting back tears.
Olson is survived by his parents, George and Fofo Olson of Pleasant Hill.