Officer Jeffrey L. Azuar, 50, one of Vallejo Police Department’s best-known and best-liked members, was fatally shot Wednesday, April 12, while trying to arrest Vallejo resident Joseph R. Teitgen, 34, on a felony warrant for grand theft.
Teitgen, who is recovering from a gunshot wound that he sustained during the confrontation, was arraigned in his hospital room. He was initially facing charges related to an alleged check-kiting scheme to save his carpet-laying business. He now faces charges of murder with two special circumstances, and two counts of attempted murder. He had prior convictions for felony grand theft.
Azuar received the call to assist in Teitgen’s arrest while he was filling in on an early shift. He and another officer were searching his home and found him hiding in a laundry room adjacent to the garage. There was a struggle, and police say Teitgen, who was high on methamphetamine, pulled out a gun and shot Azuar in the head. Teitgen was shot by a third officer as he attempted to escape out of a second floor bathroom window.
Close to 100 K-9 officers from around the state sat with their K-9 partners at their feet on Corbus Field at the Vallejo High School where funeral services were held for Azuar on Tuesday, April 18. They were a vivid reminder of how much he loved being a dog handler.
More than 4,000 local residents and law enforcement personnel filled the high school’s track field to grieve and pay their last respects to the beloved police officer slain in the line of duty. Friends say Azuar was deeply connected to his community, recognized by children from his many visits to schools with his dogs, a friend to his neighbors and a true community police officer who befriended local business owners and who would return weeks after an initial call to check up on people he had helped.
Rev. Keith DeVries told the gathering, “Jeff’s life and involvement in the community has literally touched thousands over the years.” Cpl. James O’Connell, one of the pallbearers, said, “He was so proud to be a police officer. He had this badge and he shined it so much he wore away the writing, and the chief had to order him a new one.”
Azuar’s daughter, Amanda, 25, wrote a poem, which was read at the service by family friend, Dannea Aronsen.
“To protect and serve, that is why you lived, you brought courage and honor to the badge you wore – you couldn’t have wanted anything more.” Vallejo Police Department’s chief, Bob Nichelini, told the crowd, “Jeff was truly a police officer’s police officer. He was just one great guy.”
Speeches were made, poems read, stories told and tears were shed. A close friend of Azuar, Capt. Al Lehman, put the event in perspective with his eulogy. His first words – “City of Vallejo, you have a hometown hero here.” During his speech, he shared with the crowd what his granddaughter told her mom upon hearing that Azuar had died: “Jeff and Rondo are together again.” Rondo was Azuar’s first K-9 partner.
The ceremony ended with seven police helicopters flying overhead in Missing Man formation and nine doves being released. The doves followed the path of the lone helicopter. Capt. Tom Hauser played the bagpipes while the American flag was ceremoniously folded and Chief Nichelini handed it to Azuar’s daughter. A badge with his badge number was then placed around Azuar’s K-9 partner, A.J.’s, neck.
After the service, hundreds of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances from around the state snaked through Vallejo toward the Skyview Memorial Cemetery where the interment took place.
Azuar, who had been a member of Vallejo P.D. for 21 years, had worked in patrol and narcotics and on the SWAT team until 1993, when he became an officer in the canine unit. His first police dog, Rondo, an 8-year-old German shepherd who had been his partner for 4 ½ years, was stabbed to death in July 1997 by a suspect in a hit-and-run accident. The dog died in Azuar’s arms.
Azuar participated in the K-9 Police Olympics placing third in his division. He and his K-9s were known throughout the City of Vallejo and known for their visits to the schools and organizations throughout Solano County. He was also known throughout the department and community for his cooking and the social events that were hosted by him including his Christmas and 4th of July parties given for the past 20 years.
Azuar is the first Vallejo officer to have died in the line of duty since 1966, when two officers, Calvin C. Thacker and William L. Easson Jr., were killed during a traffic stop.
He was born and raised in Vallejo. Besides his daughter, Amanda, he leaves behind his granddaughter, Ashlee, and father, Joseph, all Vallejo residents. Azuar was preceded in death by his mother, Connie, and his brother, Dennis.
The Vallejo Police Officers’ Association has set up a scholarship fund for Azuar’s 6-month-old granddaughter, Ashlee Geller. Donations may be made to the Ashlee Geller Scholarship Fund care of the Vallejo Police Officers’ Association, P.O. Box 4218, 301 Wallace Street, Vallejo, CA 94591.