On the morning of January 10, 2005 Correctional Peace Officer Manuel A. Gonzalez, Jr., 43 years old, a 16 year veteran of the Department of Corrections, was stabbed to death by an inmate at CIM – Chino, while he was routinely distributing sack lunches.
Although it is believed that three associates of the “East Coast Crips Gang” were involved in the unprovoked attack on Gonzalez, the principal assailant was identified as Jon Blaylock (35), a career “third strike” convict, who had been sentenced to 75 years in prison in June, 2004 for the attempted murder of a peace officer.
The Department of corrections had not lost an officer in The Line of Duty dating back to 1985, but the tragic death of CPO Gonzalez brought to mind the oft quoted tribute to California’s Correctional Peace Officers, coined by Don Novey, the long tenured President of the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association. Without hesitation, Don would proclaim that his 30,000 members “walk the toughest beat in the State”. When challenged by some “street” or “line” peace officer, Don would typically invite them to trade places with one of his courageous constituents working within the walls of our prisons; constantly on the alert, watching their backs, victims of assaults unheard of on the “streets”, doing tougher time than the inmates. “So far, no takers”, Don would proudly announce.
Sadly, the circumstances surrounding the death of CPO Manuel Gonzalez gave rise to a number of questions being asked by fellow officers and members of the State Legislature. Why had he not been issued a protective vest in a timely fashion, a vest which might have saved his life? Why had inmate Blaylock, the convict who took Gonzalez life not been transferred to a more secure prison in a timely fashion, as required by Department guidelines? These and other questions will be subject of review by the Legislature.
Fellow officers praised Gonzalez as “a true professional who never lost his cool. He was always there to help a fellow officer”. A female CPO who had worked with Gonzalez said that he always made her feel secure. “He was very sure of himself. When he walked in, you knew he was in control”, she said.
On the morning of January 17, more than 2,000 mourners; family members, friends and fellow peace officers, many from out of State, gathered at Saint Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Whittier to pay their final respects to one of California’s true heroes.
State Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, a former State Parole Agent and personal friend of Gonzalez delivered the eulogy and praised him as an “outstanding public servant”.
A massive funeral procession, with police vehicles representing a myriad of jurisdictions escorted CPO Manuel A. Gonzalez, Jr. to his final resting place, Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello.
Officer Gonzalez is survived by his wife Sylvia and six children.