Ofc. James D. Schultz died early Saturday, Nov. 16, after being struck by a vehicle driven by a motorist who had apparently dozed off at the wheel. Schultz, 46, was checking an abandoned vehicle on Interstate 8 between Gordon’s Well and the Brock Research Center. He was standing on the left side of the car checking for a vehicle identification number, when he was struck by a westbound 1979 Cadillac sedan pulling a trailer loaded with greyhound racing dogs.
Theodore Jeske, 58, of San Ysidro, the driver of the vehicle, allegedly fell asleep while driving and drifted off to the right side of the road striking Schultz.
Schultz was thrown over the hood of the abandoned vehicle and into the dirt. He was alive when paramedics arrived, but had broken legs, head trauma and a possible broken neck. He died of his injuries at the Yuma Regional Medical Center.
Schultz’s partner, Officer Robert Sapp, who wasn’t injured in the accident, and Jeske administered first aid to him. There were no indications at the scene that Jeske had been drinking. CHP officials said that misdemeanor manslaughter charges would be filed against Jeske. He could face one year in the Imperial County Jail.
More than 1,000 guests, including about 300 law enforcement officers, filled the Yuma Civic Center to pay their final respects to Schultz. Tom Messer, Schultz’s pastor at Mount Zion Christian Church, told the audience “A great man has fallen in Yuma, a great man in God has fallen and by being here today, you’re saying a good friend has fallen.”
The CHP honored their colleague of 25 years with full honors, a 21-gun salute and an aerial pass of five airplanes and three helicopters.
Schultz’s commander at the Winterhaven post, Lt. Doug McMurray, said the public outpouring spoke for itself. Dozens of law enforcement patrol cars formed the funeral procession which rolled through Winterhaven and downtown Yuma, people saluted and covered their hearts with their hands in respect.
William Schultz, a brother, said “It shows he was a good Christian and a magnificent individual.”
A coworker stated that because of Schultz’s general good nature, he was the perfect Santa Claus at the Winterhaven post.
CHP Commissioner Spike Helmick stated that Schultz, the sixth CHP officer to die in the line of duty this year, stood and lived by the code to protect California citizens. “He was a hero, Helmick said. “You have every reason to believe it.”
A strong advocate of informing drivers of the dangers of driving while drowsy, Schultz was known for his creativity in issuing tickets for such actions. Although it isn’t illegal to drive tired, he once used a law to ticket a man who was driving asleep. He cited the man for driving faster than what was “prudent under the conditions.”
Officers who worked with Schultz described him as a man with a positive attitude. Officer Richard Moss, also of the Winterhaven station, said Schultz was an excellent officer. He had been with the department going on 25 years, but he still had the zest of a brand new officer.”
Schultz had been assigned to the Winterhaven CHP office for 10 years and had served as the post’s public affairs officer for five years. “He came into this job and was always aggressive,” Moss said. “He always uplifted everyone’s spirit.”
Schultz had an unparalleled commitment to his career with the California Highway Patrol second only to his commitment as a Christian, husband, and father. He was extremely active with the Mt. Zion Christian Church in Yuma and had traveled to Russia and Indonesia as part of a Christian Ministry. Jim, as he was known to his friends, also worked in the area prisons in the Prison Ministry Program. He also was a lover of country music, working part time at a Yuma radio station.
Schultz was born in Dunkirk, NY. He served in the U.S. Army prior to joining the California Highway Patrol in January 1972. He is survived by his wife, Teresa, of Felicity; 21-year-old son, Jeremiah, a member of the United States Marine Corps; mother, Dorothy; brother, William; both of Westfield, New York.
The family requested that any remembrances be sent to the James Schultz Memorial Fund, c/o the Winterhaven CHP Office, 1 Killingsworth Dr., Felicity, CA 92283.