A 10-year veteran of the CHP, Officer Gregory “John” Bailey was killed after he pulled over a suspected drunk driver on Interstate 15 near Hesperia. He made the stop while he was heading home after the end of his shift. As Bailey stood on the shoulder, a second suspected drunk driver drove onto the right shoulder at a high rate of speed, struck the CHP motorcycle, the violator’s vehicle, and Officer Bailey. The violator’s vehicle was struck with such force it overturned, landing in the freeway traffic lanes. All three parties were transported by ambulance to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. Officer Bailey died from his injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital. The DUI driver, Domingo Esqueda, age 20, of Adelanto, reportedly had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.
Bailey was the sixth Highway Patrol officer to be killed on duty in previous five months.
At least 1,500 people, and several hundred uniformed officers and soldiers attended Officer Bailey’s memorial service at the Rock Church in San Bernardino, where he was remembered as a man devoted to his wife, Teresa, and their four young children, and for his service in the U.S. Army, the California National Guard, and the California Highway Patrol.
Born in Michigan, Bailey moved with his family to rural Thurmont, Maryland, when he and his sister were young. Aimee Bailey recalled a playful older brother who chased her with bugs and lizards and later taught her to drive a stick-shift. “I thought the two of us would grow old,” she told mourners.
After high school, Bailey trained as a helicopter mechanic in the Army, repairing Blackhawks. He entered the CHP academy in 1995, spending five years in the Barstow Area office before transferring to Rancho Cucamonga to become a motorcycle officer. Last November Bailey returned from a 14-month tour in Iraq with the California National Guard.
In their remarks at the service, several of John Bailey’s friends and colleagues called him a cowboy – as much for his adventurous spirit as for his boots and custom hats.
CHP Officer Mike Hootman recalled a long trip that he and Bailey took on their motorcycles for a special assignment. “I’ll never forget how special it was and how cool it was to ride side by side by my friend on a CHP motorcycle doing something we loved so much,” Hootman said.
“He gave his life by protecting citizens of California,” said CHP Inland Division Chief John Fogerty. “He was a hero, not a victim.”
“I know that John was doing his duty as a solider of the law when he died,” said CHP Commissioner Mike Brown. “He could have turned a blind eye. … But he believed in taking drunk drivers off the road.”
Brown, Fogerty and Maj. Gen. William Wade II of the California National Guard, each kneeling, handed folded flags to Bailey’s parents, Leonard and Lavonne Bailey.
The funeral service ended and mourners filed outside for a final farewell – a 21-gun salute under a drizzling sky. Each of the officer’s children clutched a teddy bear as their mother was presented with a pair of American flags.