On the evening of October 6, 2005, Deputy Kevin Elium, a five year veteran of the Tulare County Sheriffs Department, was on patrol in Porterville with volunteer sheriff’s chaplain Lee Sorenson. At approximately 2100 hours Deputy Elium answered a call to back up a fellow deputy on a high-risk traffic stop in the Strathmore area. As he attempted to pass a car with lights and siren on, his patrol car went off the narrow roadway and hit a tree.
The driver of the car Elium was passing witnessed the crash and was first to call 911 dispatchers on a cell phone. Both Elium and Sorenson were pinned in the patrol call. After about 25 minutes, Sorenson, age 73, was pulled from the car by rescue crews and taken to Sierra View District Hospital, where he since recovered from his injuries. It took approximately another hour to free Elium from the wreckage. He was flown by helicopter to University Medical Center in Fresno. He died at the hospital shortly after midnight on October 7.
October 12, 2005 Deputy Elium was remembered as a caring father, respected deputy, and smiling friend during funeral services at the Church of the Nazarene in Porterville. More than 1,000 people, including peace officers from up and down the state ranging from El Segundo Police Department near Los Angeles to El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department in Northern California, came to pay their respects to the fallen deputy. “I can’t give you a reason for why this happened. … I can tell you I lost a hard-working deputy,” Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman said during the service.
After the church services, dozens of patrol cars and police motorcycles along with ambulances and fire trucks, led a two-mile procession to Hillcrest Memorial Park for graveside services that included a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, and a helicopter flyover from the California Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s Departments of Fresno and Kern counties. While a bagpiper mournfully played “Amazing Grace,” one of Deputy Elium’s three children helped to release a flock of white doves that circled over the crowd before disappearing into the horizon.
Elium served in the U.S. Army and worked as an emergency medical technician in the South Valley for ten years. He was hired by the Tulare County Sheriffs Department after graduating from the College of the Sequoias Police Academy in 2001. He worked first in the detentions division and later transferred to transportation. He was promoted to patrol duties in 2004, working from the sheriff’s Porterville substation.
Deputy Elium is survived by his three children, parents, and foster parents.