The path of a dedicated San Jose police officer, Henry I. Bunch, and a 42-year-old transient crossed Monday, July 29, ending in sudden death for both of them.
Officer Bunch, 33, was shot in the head while preparing to administer a blood-alcohol test to Robert Ordonez who grabbed the officer’s 41-magnum revolver and fired one shot.
The episode occurred as Bunch and Ordonez were alone in a locked room of the Alcohol Investigation Bureau.
Bunch and his partner, Officer Richard Bridges, had arrested and handcuffed Ordonez after finding him slumped over the wheel of a parked car.
Bridges stated that he left Bunch with Ordonez and went to put his own pistol in a locker, which is department policy. He heard a shot and ran back to the booking room. Upon entering he was assaulted by Ordonez with Bunch’s gun. Bridges managed to wrestle the gun away. Two shots were fired, with the second one hitting the transient in the head.
Bridges then pushed an alarm button to summon help. Both Bunch and Ordonez were pronounced dead at the scene.
Assistant Police Chief Stan Horton said Bunch apparently made a fatal mistake when he failed to put his gun away before removing the suspect’s handcuffs in preparation for the blood-alcohol test.
“The policy . . . is to secure the gun first,” Horton said. Keeping a gun at hand, even when dealing with a belligerent suspect, merely increases the danger, he added.
Bunch, a five-year veteran of the force, had won praise from citizens and commendations from the department. He was an “outstanding” officer, according to his superiors.
“My guess is that he merely forgot to put his gun away,” said patrol division chief Larry Stuefloten. “Sometimes the greatest danger in this job is the routine (situation).”
Bunch was the first San Jose officer in 15 years to be shot to death in the line of duty.
Officer Bunch joined the San Jose Police Department in 1980. Previous service includes six years as a police officer in Daly City, and three years as a cadet/dispatcher in Corte Madera. He is survived by his wife and his 6-year-old daughter by a previous marriage and two stepchildren, ages 3 and 4.
Funeral services were held on Thursday, Aug. 1, at the First Baptist Church of San Jose followed by interment at the Oak Hill Cemetery.
Mrs. Bunch wrote the following letter after her husband’s death:
TO ALL POLICE OFFICERS EVERYWHERE:
Have courage and strength. Continue to believe in the rightness of your position in life. Live life as keepers of peace and love each other and your families.
Thank you all, for sharing your strength and convictions with me on this dark day. Each of you brought me a little light, a lot of respect and took away a great degree of loneliness.