There weren’t enough seats for the 1,400 police officers attending the memorial April 3, 1995, for “the old man” of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department.
Hundreds of officers stood in formation in the foyer as speakers remembered and thanked Deputy Frank V. Trejo. The grandfather and career lawman was 58 when he was shot to death March 29.
Trejo was well-known to graveyard shift workers in the huge area he policed from west of Santa Rosa and Cotati to near Forestville. He had spotted a pickup in the lot of a closed store near Sebastopol and pulled into investigate. Minutes later, Sonoma County’s oldest patrol deputy lay dead from a shotgun blast. Two suspects were later arrested.
“My dad loved his job,” said 24-year-old Nikki Trejo, surveying the auditorium filled with uniformed officers from across the state. “This was where he belonged, among the rest of you.”
Although 2,200 people attended Trejo’s memorial, the farewell had the feeling of a family affair. Ordinary citizens walked to the microphone to say something about the down-to-earth, reliable deputy.
Clerks who worked the graveyard shift in west county stores said they liked the stout and muscular Trejo and felt safer knowing he wasn’t far away.
West county resident Ann Davis thanked Trejo’s family for the deputy’s sacrifice. “To all of you in uniforms, it could have been any of you,” Davis added. “Thank you for protecting us.
A close friend of Trejo, former Deputy Carlos Basurto, was a detective when Trejo, formerly a policeman in Lompoc and Tiburon, became a Sonoma County deputy in 1980. Basurto said he took one look at Trejo and knew he was looking at the department’s new narcotics detective.
At Basurto’s suggestion, Trejo began deep-cover work, buying heroin from dealers and then sending in deputies to bust them.
“Frank was good at buying heroin,” said Basurto. The somber crowd laughed when Basurto added, “He was so good, the dealers gave him a discount.” Basurto ended by beseeching the officers present, “Please be careful.”
Earlier, a motorcade of 240 patrol cars and 60 police motorcycles, led by limousines bearing Trejo’s family, moved slowly from the fairgrounds in central Santa Rosa to the memorial at the Burbank Center. Along the route, some spectators bowed their heads in honor of Frank Trejo. Others saluted.
Trejo was remembered as a fine father and loving grandfather and as the kind of cop who used brains rather than brawn, although he had both.
Former Tiburon policeman Bill Langston, now a sergeant with the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, recalled that in 1978 he was a young cop eager “to go out and kick some butt,” Langston credited Trejo’s patient mentoring with helping him mature into a good cop.
Ron Hutchins, an officer from Trejo’s home town of Lompoc, said Trejo was a master at resolving fights and other problems without getting physical. Hutchins said when he heard Trejo had been killed, “I thought, damn, I lost my role model.”
He was a role model also for son Michael, 22. The younger Trejo struggled to contain his grief as he said his family deeply appreciated the community’s love and support and all the expressions of fondness for his father. “He was a great man,” Michael Trejo said.
Trejo is survived by his wife Barbara; son Michael, Jr.; daughters Debra Radovich, Dominique Trejo and Deanna Trejo; three grandchildren; and mother Carmen Trejo of Lompoc.
Contributions to a trust fund to benefit the family may be mailed to Frank Trejo Family Trust, c/o Exchange Bank, P.O. Box 6005, Santa Rosa, CA 95406.