More than a thousand peace officers gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in San Diego on June 10, to memorialize Christopher David Lydon. Lydon, an El Cajon CHP officer, was killed and his partner, Jeff Jenkins, injured early June 5, 1998 after their patrol vehicle spun off of SR-67 in Lakeside as they tried to intercept a reported drunken driver.
The patrol car went down an embankment where it overturned and struck a tree. Lydon, 27, died on impact. Jenkins, 33, was able to free himself from the vehicle. He suffered a fractured shoulder and abrasions.
Services for Lydon were held in the same chapel where his parents, Janie and Stephen Lydon, were married and where in August 1992, his 18-year-old brother, Robert, who died in an automobile accident, was memorialized.
During the two-hour memorial service, friends and officers, some from as far away as Idaho, Michigan and Ohio, shared fond memories of Lydon. The crowd often burst into laughter even as tears rolled down their faces.
Lydon’s passenger and partner, Jenkins, with his arm in a sling, sat with Lydon’s parents during the service.
El Cajon Highway Patrol Capt. Steve Lykins told the packed chapel “If there’s any solace, Chris was doing what he loved when he died.” Officer Stacy Willits recalled Lydon’s sense of humor. She said Lydon once helped the Border Patrol stop a motorist and wanted to use what he thought was his fluency in Spanish.
Instead of telling the driver to put his hands up, he unknowingly said, “Cross your T-shirt.” In another attempt to order the driver to put his hands behind his head, it turned into “put your hands over your eyes.”
After the arrest was completed, the driver told Lydon that he spoke English.
Willits told the audience that Lydon was a master of sarcasm and he took it all in stride. The gathering in the chapel roared with laughter and then sniffles.
Wally Cannon, a friend of the Lydons, presented a medal he had received for volunteer service to them in a touching moment. He said, “Chris should have it.”
Chris McDermont, another friend, described Lydon as a funny friend who he could always count on, one with built-in wisdom. McDermont said, “I believe the Lord placed him in my life to (make me) a better person. Words are a feeble attempt to explain his greatness.”
McDermont told the audience that after he heard of Lydon’s death, he looked up and asked God, “Why, why take a friend from me, a loved one from us?” He continued, pausing often to regain his composure, “Who am I to say what God does? I know he’s out there. Every time I see the mountains, the sunset, the fog . . . he’s out there.”
Cannon said “Chris will not be gone until he is forgotten, (and) he will never be forgotten.”
Lydon, who was not married, was born in LaJolla in 1970 and graduated from Poway High School in 1989. When he was a teenager, Lydon worked for two years as a newspaper carrier and saved to pay for a week-long trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
He joined the U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of corporal. He served during the Desert Storm conflict and received numerous military commendations.
Lydon earned a degree from San Diego State University in public administration with a minor in criminal justice. He enjoyed flying and had obtained his private pilot’s license.
Lydon graduated from the CHP Academy in 1996, and was assigned to central Los Angeles. He soon transferred back to his home in San Diego, working out of the El Cajon office for the past nine months.
A motorcade of police cruisers and motorcycles stretching almost five miles made its way after the memorial service to the Dearborn Memorial Park in Poway where a military-style internment was held.
CHP spokesman Mark Gregg stated that both Lydon and Jenkins were two-year veterans of the CHP. “The irony of it is that these officers were responding to try to prevent an accident and save someone’s life. They ended up paying the sacrifice.”
Carol Kelly, CHP public affairs officer, said “The Lydons were the All-American family. They went on camping trips together. The parents are very proud their son was a third generation San Diegan who graduated from college third generation. To them, their son was an All-American hero.”
Lydon’s mother, Janie, read to the media from a prepared statement. “The citizens, strangers and friends alike who have poured out their love and sorrow at the crash site need to know what their selfless compassion means to my husband, me and our entire family. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts for all you’re doing to honor the memory of our son.
She continued “Chris was the best of the best. The son, the grandson, the brother, the officer. I’ll never know how we managed to raise this beautiful human being. He is now and will forever be our own personal hero.”
The Highway Patrol is looking into possible charges against the drunken driver who Lydon was pursuing when the accident occurred. He was located hours after the accident, but wasn’t arrested because his blood-alcohol level was not found to be over the legal limit.
Lydon was the first California Highway Patrol officer to die on duty in San Diego County in more than three decades.
In addition to his parents, he is survived by a half brother, Jowell Lydon.
A trust fund has been established through Home Savings of America, 1790 East Main Street, El Cajon, 92021, 619/579-3771 or Fax 619/442-4748. Anyone wishing to make a donation may do so at any Home Savings Bank in California. The account number is 820-0033922.
CHP OFFICER REMEMBERED
A section of Highway 67 in Lakeside, CA was recently commemorated in the name of California Highway Patrol Officer Christopher D. Lydon, who was killed in the line of duty on June 5, 1998. Lydon was responding to a DUI call when he lost control of his cruiser and died in a crash on Highway 67.