Deputy Brent C. Jenkins, 45, became the fifth member of the Riverside Co. Sheriff’s Department assigned to the San Gorgonio Pass, and the third from the Cabazon station to die in the line of duty since 1997.
On Tuesday, March 18, Jenkins became the latest fatality when his 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV drifted off Interstate 10 in Beaumont and slammed into a tree about 4:30 a.m.
Witnesses driving behind Jenkins told authorities that he was driving about 70 mph when his vehicle drifted over one eastbound lane then left the road, Chris Blondon, public affairs officer, reported.
The deputy apparently did not apply the brakes or take any evasive action. Blondon stated, “There’s no apparent reason for the accident.”
Two cars following the deputy stopped after the accident to help. The CHP and an ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later. Jenkins was wearing his seat belt and shoulder harness, authorities said.
Sheriff Bob Doyle stated that he learned about the accident about 5:30 a.m. “I went to see the family, but they’re in seclusion and dealing with the grief of their loss,” Doyle said. “We have . . . department people there to provide any support they can.”
Doyle characterized Jenkins as a good employee with strong family ties. “It’s just a tragic situation and our hearts go out to the family,” he said continuing, “It’s a very intimate, close station. They’ve had their share of losses at that station. It’s just devastating.”
During a memorial service conducted Saturday, March 22, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Moreno Valley, Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. Ron Wade told mourners that Jenkins led search-and-rescue missions, “finding the stranded and the lost, always in the dead of winter and always in the middle of the night.”
Bishop Fred Powers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints eulogized Jenkins by saying, “A light shown around him. The light always made you want to be in his presence.”
Approximately 1,200 people, including 300 family members and about 500 deputies, attended the service where Jenkins was described as a husband and father who put his family first, a church leader and a forthright law-enforcement officer.
One of Jenkins’ siblings, Sara Stephan, told the group, “Yes, he was in law enforcement, but he had the biggest, softest heart in the world.”
Another sibling, Ruth Findlay, tape-recorded her brother’s life story when the family last visited her in Utah. Never did she expect to use his own words for his eulogy.
She said her brother treated everyone with care and dignity. “Even people he arrested thanked him for treating them with such respect,” she said.
The funeral procession March 22, to Olivewood Memorial Park in Riverside for interment included hundreds of police vehicles.
Jenkins, a native of Utah, attended four years of seminary school in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as every faithful high student member of the church is required to do.
He was actively involved in service and leadership positions in the Moreno Valley church.
Bishop Powers told the audience that years ago, when Jenkins was a jail guard in Riverside, he took a group of Boy Scouts on a tour. Powers went along.
“He took us down in the belly and taught us what happens when we do not choose the right,” he said. “Certain people in life are angels. I haven’t driven over 55 since that experience.”
Jenkins joined the department in 1990 and worked in the Pass area for the last five years, first at the former Banning Station, then at the new Cabazon facility.
He left behind his wife, Linda, and six children, Summer, 27; Ryan, 25; Amberlee, 22; Matthew, 21; Sean, 17; and Brittany, 12.
Contributions can be made to a trust fund in Jenkins’ memory through the Riverside County Sheriff’s Association Relief Fund: Deputy Jenkins, 6215 River Crest Drive, No. A, Riverside, CA 92507.