More than 1,500 mostly law enforcement officers gathered at the First United Methodist Church in San Diego Thursday, May 1, to honor San Diego Officer Gerald K. Griffin who died on Friday, April 25.
A vehicle struck Griffin, 42, April 15 when he stepped into the street to wave over the driver for speeding. He and other officers were using hand-held laser guns to detect the speed of passing cars. Then they would flag down the drivers and issue citations.
Accident investigators said the driver, Heather Shumway, 22, apparently didn’t see Griffin until it was too late. He was knocked into the car windshield and suffered massive head injuries, broken legs and internal injuries. He was hospitalized and died 11 days later when he was taken off life support at the hospital.
During a eulogy at his funeral service one of Griffin’s friends said, “He was my best friend. Jerry had many ‘best friends’ because he had a quality about him that made you feel that you were truly special to him. But, I only had one best friend – Jerry.”
Another speaker, San Diego motor Officer Bryan Young, told the group of mourners, “The last time I spoke to Jerry was on the phone at lunch. I was to pick him up after work and then we would go pick up a Jeep Jerry was going to use until he found a car.
“A little after 2 p.m. I received the worst call of my life. My best friend, partner, someone who was a part of my life and my family, had been struck by a car and was not expected to make it.
“Jerry was, and remains special to my family and to me. Sometimes, I find myself lonely, riding to and from work, looking over to see that Jerry is no longer riding to my right. I am a better person having known him.”
Officer Dona Loshonkohl said, “Jerry was a sensitive, caring and affectionate man. People know that Jerry was a man of conviction who always tried to do the right thing. What some may not know is that he drew inspiration from nature; he loved flowers. He was devoted to his friends and his daughter Ashley. I was Jerry’s princess, and he was my pillar of strength.
“Jerry lived his life trying to make each moment count. Some viewed him as a free spirit. Dozens of times over the past year, Jerry told me, ‘Life is short. Eat your sweets, but make sure you go to the gym to work it off.’”
Carlsbad Police Officer Keith Blackburn, Griffin’s weightlifting partner, remembers: “Most people know what a big part of Jerry’s life weightlifting was. Jerry, in fact, really was a champion who was always a favorite to win first place in his weight divisions; and occasionally won ‘Best Overall Lifter’ for the entire competition.
“One of his strongest competitions was the International Police and Fire Olympics in 1988. With three judges critically watching his execution of the lifts, he successfully squatted 562 pounds, bench pressed 358 pounds, and dead-lifted 584 pounds, earning him the title of ‘Third in the World’ for his weight class.
“Life, especially in the gym, will be a little less exciting and a whole lot weaker without Jerry.”
San Diego Police Department Chaplain Ralph Buchanan, who says he has gotten to know the motor officers quite well and they share a special camaraderie, wrote, “Jerry loved everyone in his life in the way he felt he should.
“Because of this love, you could tell his roommates, partners, family and friends, would never forget his love of life.”
Griffin joined the San Diego Police Department in 1986. His assignments included the protection unit for Mayor Dick Murphy and former Mayor Susan Golding.
“He also worked patrol in the eastern and northeastern parts of the city and taught at the training academy. He was assigned to the traffic division in January 2001 and to the motorcycle squad in March that year.
As well as his 15-year-old daughter, Ashley Griffin-Stence, he is survived by his parents, Gerald and Patricia Griffin of Fort Washington, MD; and sisters Leslie (and husband Patrick Kelly) of Ashburn, MD, and Stacey (and husband Curtis Rineer) of Virginia Beach, VA.
A memorial fund has been established in the name of Griffin’s daughter. Donations to the fund can be mailed to: Ashley Griffin-Stence, c/o San Diego Police Officers Association, 8388 Vickers Street, San Diego, CA 92111.