On Monday, December 15, 2008, at approximately 4:30 a.m., CHP Officer Joseph P. Sanders of Santa Fe Springs Area was struck by a car while laying a flare pattern in heavy rain. He was life-flighted to USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.
Officer Sanders, age 29, was at the scene of a collision on eastbound State Route 60, near Azusa Avenue, in the city of Hacienda Heights, when a vehicle not associated with the original collision struck a third vehicle, which went out of control and struck him. The driver was charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter for driving unsafely, which ultimately resulted in the death of Officer Sanders.
An Iraq veteran, Sanders served in the Marine Corps from 1997 through 2006. He leaves behind his expectant wife Tondria and four young children, his parents, and two sisters.
Growing up, Sanders had a relative who worked as a groundskeeper at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento. That exposure to law enforcement inspired the Galt High School graduate to become a patrolman. At the time of his death, Officer Sanders was about to mark his first year with the CHP. After graduation from the Academy in December 2007, he was assigned to Santa Fe Springs Area and was planning to transfer to the Modesto Area April 1, 2009, to be closer to family in his childhood hometown of Galt.
On the morning of December 22, law enforcement officers from across the state and as far away as Texas joined the family of Officer Joseph Sanders to memorialize their fallen hero.
CHP Commissioner Joseph Farrow addressed the large congregation at Elk Grove’s First Baptist Church and spoke directly to Tondria Sanders, “Remember when you told me that you have a big family? Well, look around this room now, and you can see that your family got a whole lot bigger.”
Speakers at the funeral addressed Sanders’ character and dedication to the CHP and his family. “His life was a gift, and he lived it to the fullest,” Pastor Jay Stevans said.
Officer Sanders was the third officer from the Santa Fe Springs station in the past four years to die in the line of duty, his supervisor Capt. Daniel Minor said. Minor told the audience, “Joe died doing what he absolutely loved doing.”
Southern Division Chief Warren Stanley recalled visiting Tondria Sanders with Capt. Minor to inform her of Sanders death. There was a moment when Stanley felt Tondria’s 10-month-old son Silas tugging at his leg. As he picked Silas up he wondered how the boy would make it through the loss of his father. “I know he is going to be okay, because Tondria, you are so strong,” Stanley said.