Hundreds of law enforcement officers from all over California filled a Northridge church on October 6, 1995, to mourn the death of California Highway Patrol officer Bruce T. Hinman. After the memorial service, a five-mile procession of patrol cars and motorcycles, lights flashing, followed the hearse to the cemetery. Hinman, a 34-year-old father of three, died October 3 of massive injuries he suffered September 26 when, according to police, a vehicle operated by a drunk driving suspect slammed into the disabled car Hinman had stopped to assist, pinning Hinman beneath the vehicle.
Inside Shepherd of the Hills Church, family members, colleagues and friends remembered Hinman as a loving, compassionate family man who cherished his job and dedicated his life to public service.
“He stood for the very tenets of the California Highway Patrol: public safety and service,” CHP Commissioner Maurice Hannigan said in his eulogy. “He, in fact, surrendered his life doing what he loved to do best, helping the public.”
“He was someone who could make you feel good just by being around,” said Hinman’s neighbor Karen Hall. She said it was ironic that Hinman, a staunch opponent of drinking alcohol, was killed by a suspected drunk driver.
Hinman, an eight-year CHP veteran, was said to be the first officer in the 26-year history of the patrol’s West Valley station to die in the line of duty.
An estimated 1,000 police officers attended the service, including Los Angeles Police Chief Willie L. Williams. CHP Chaplain Karl Hansen said the outpouring of grief and support for Hinman’s family illustrated the special ties that bind law enforcement officers. “For those of us who have chosen this profession, the death of a police officer is like losing a close family member,” he said.
A bagpipe player filled the chapel with the familiar strains of “Amazing Grace,” while two helmeted CHP officers, faces obscured behind sun visors, stood at attention at either end of Hinman’s flag-draped oak coffin, upon which Hinman’s helmet rested.
After the service, the engines of more than 100 motorcycles roared to life as Hinman’s colleagues led the funeral procession to Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth. Also in the procession was a patrol car towing Hinman’s motorcycle and hundreds of other patrol cars and fire trucks with their lights flashing. Traffic was halted briefly on the westbound Simi Valley-San Fernando Valley Freeway and on Topanga Canyon Boulevard to let the procession pass. More fire trucks were parked along the road with ladders raised in tribute to the fallen officer.
At the cemetery, a police honor guard fired three volleys, a bugler played taps and six police helicopters flew the missing man formation over the gravesite. The entire assembly of peace officers in attendance stood at attention, saluting Hinman.
Hinman’s wife Kimberlee was presented with her husband’s helmet and the flag from his coffin. The couple lived in Palmdale with their five-year-old twin sons Mitchell and Morgan. Hinman is also survived by nine-year-old Cory, his son from an earlier marriage, who lives in Las Vegas. All three of Hinman’s sons attended the services.
Even in death, friends said, Hinman was selfless. His organs were donated to those awaiting transplants.