Even as a little boy, Jimmy Beyea loved uniforms.
In nursery school, he marched around Northridge’s Pinecrest School in a toddler-sized khaki shirt and little red tie. Part of the campus color guard.
Later, he wore the white-and-brown of a Baskin-Robbins ice-cream dipper, the semiofficial togs of a pest exterminator and the real-thing fatigues of the Air National Guard.
But it wasn’t until last March, when James Clark Beyea graduated from the Police Academy and donned the starched blue of the Los Angeles Police Department, that the uniform really seemed to fit, family, and friends said.
“You could say he had found his niche in life,” a friend, Brian Koren, said. “You could say that’s what he was meant to do, to be a cop.”
If only for a few months.
Beyea’s career was cut short June 8 by a suspected burglar who wrestled the rookie’s revolver away from him. Beyea, 24, died in uniform on the street, a .38 caliber bullet through is head.
Beyea’s fellow officers killed one suspect in his slaying several hours later. Another suspect was in custody.
His mother, Cathleeen Beyea, worried that something like this might happen to the boy she named after her father, the late Los Angeles Police Dept. motorcycle Officer James Clark.
“It’s dangerous,” said Beyea, who raised her only child alone, on the salary of a Ralph’s cashier. “You think about it. But that’s what he wanted to do. He liked it a lot. He liked, you know, apprehending criminals.”
Like the naked woman who was running around a North Hollywood street one night. “He didn’t tell us about the bad ones,” said Beyea. Just the funny stuff.
He was clean-cut, protective, a guy who liked pepperoni pizzas, chocolate mint ice cream, and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. His picture in the 1981 edition of Grover T. Cleveland High School’s yearbook shows a serious young man with longish hair and stooped shoulders.
Although he was never a problem child, “he didn’t get discipline until he got to the National Guard,” his mother said. There, her son cut his hair and learned to salute smartly.
Beyea was deeply patriotic, his family said, a strong proponent of federal defense spending.
The walls of his Reseda apartment are decorated with model airplanes, swords from Okinawa, Japan and other military memorabilia. A Persian cat prowls inside, neighbors said.
“He was just a real gung-ho guy,” his mother said. “Very enthusiastic. All-American . . . We’re very proud of him.”
Every morning Beyea worked out at the Air National Guard base where he was still in the reserve. Every weekend, he went out with the girl next door whom he’d known since he was 12.
“He was very giving, ambitious and loving,” Cindy Lewis, the girlfriend, said. “He had a lot of friends.”
Many of his closest friends still work at the 146th Air National Guard Armory, where Jimmy stopped by sometimes to eat lunch with the old gang: two thick hamburgers with chili on top.
“Hell of a kid,” said Sgt. Mike Sexton. “He was an excellent worker. Outgoing. Very friendly . . . He doesn’t deserve something like this to happen to him.”
For Steve Timbol, a fellow guardsman, Jimmy’s death is “like losing a brother,” he said. “He was very kind-hearted.”
At the Police Academy, Beyea was one of four squad leaders in his class.
“He was an exemplary recruit,” said Officer Kent Carter, a drill instructor. “All his classmates looked up to him. He was my No. 1 squad leader. Just the kid you want to come to the academy. He portrayed the best that there is.”
He graduated in the top one-fourth of his class of 71, instructors said.
Within the department, Beyea’s goals were to make the anti-gang unit. Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums, and the elite Metropolitan Division, instructors said.
“He stressed integrity, discipline, and loyalty,” added Officer Michael Diaz, his self-defense instructor. “He showed it all the way to the end.”
At police headquarters downtown, flags were already flying at half-mast in Beyea’s memory. Normally boisterous officers were somber and subdued.
“Everyone has to die, but it’s a shame when they have to die so young,” said Officer Bill Frio, a department spokesman.
Beyea’s colleagues at the North Hollywood Division were in shock. They said he was unusually aggressive – and impressive – for a probationer. “He was a real good policeman and would have made a great police officer,” said Officer Jeff Dunn. “It’s too bad he was cut down so short in his career. He would have been a good one.”
Cmdr. William Booth said Chief Daryl Gates regretted that he was out of town when one of his officers was killed. “He wanted to be here,” Booth said.
Beyea is the second North Hollywood officer to be killed in three years. Detective Thomas C. Williams, 42, was shot to death Oct. 31, 1985, in what authorities said was an effort to prevent him from testifying in a robbery case.
“The wounds from that case haven’t really healed,” Dinse said. “Now this on top of that . . .it doesn’t make this a very pleasant place to be.