Dennis Fuller’s ambition in life was to become a law enforcement officer so he could help people.
That dream was fulfilled two years ago, when he graduated from the police academy in Modesto and was assigned to the Merced County Sheriff’s Department substation in Los Banos.
Sheriff’s Deputy Fuller died August 19 from injuries suffered when his patrol car slammed into the back of a slow-moving farm trailer on Highway 152. Fuller was driving to the Dos Palos area to arrest a burglary suspect, said Merced County Sheriff Bill Amis. “His mother was telling me that more than anything else, he wanted to be a sheriff,” Amis recalled. “He was a bright and promising sheriff’s officer.
“It’s a real shock to all officers of this department,” said Amis. “It will take a while to get over it.”
Amis described Fuller as “well known, well liked and respected” by his fellow officers at the Los Banos substation, 40 miles outside Merced.
“He was very, very proud to be a sheriff,” said Cheryl Fuller, his former wife. “He always wanted to become a sheriff and help people.”
Fuller grew up in Merced County. He had lived there since he was 14 months old. A graduate of Merced High School, Fuller studied accounting at Merced Junior College. But, because of his desire to become a sheriff, “he broke away from that field,” his former wife said.
“He was just happy to be there in Los Banos when he first started,” she said. “He had a way with people and was super about his job.
He always looked for the best in everyone,” Cheryl Fuller said. “He was just a neat person.”
But his greatest love was “Rug Rat,” his nickname for his 18-month-old daughter, Nicole Marie, she said.
“She meant the whole world to him,” she said. “She looks just like her dad.”
According to Lt. Larry Torongo, Fuller was driving east on Highway 152 when he collided with a tractor towing an irrigation pipe trailer, which also was eastbound three miles east of Los Banos. The tractor driver and two farm workers riding in the trailer suffered minor to moderate injuries.
Alfonso Lopez, 24, the driver, and Julio Heredia, 26, were taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto where they were listed in fair condition. Felipe Garcia, 23, was taken to Los Banos Community Hospital for treatment and was released. Antonio Barboza, 15, and Carlos Barbozam, 16, were not injured.
The California Highway Patrol still is investigating the cause of the accident.
Funeral service for Fuller was held at Ivers & Alcorn Funeral Home. Burial followed. Besides his daughter, Fuller is survived by two brothers, David and Michael Fuller; his parents, Raymond and Joyce Fuller; and his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Tommy McClary of Oklahoma.
Thomas Carlyle wrote “that the courage we desire and prize is not the courage to die decently, but to have lived manfully.,” Dennis was raised by his folks to live a manful life and because of his parents, his courage was guaranteed at birth.