The Burbank Police Department had not lost an officer in the line of duty by gunfire for more than eighty-three years. On the evening of November 15 that all changed. Veteran Officer Gregory Campbell had stopped a newer Cadillac Escalade SUV, without license plates, containing two males. The area where the stop was made was well known for drug trafficking and other criminal activity, so Campbell wisely called for backup.
The first officer to respond was 26 year old Matthew Pavelka, who had been in the field as a police officer for just ten months. When Campbell and Pavelka approached the suspect vehicle and ordered the two male subjects to exit the vehicle, they both alighted firing automatic weapons. Both Campbell And Pavelka were wounded several times, but in the ensuing exchange of gun fire the officers mortally wounded one of the gunmen, 25 year old Ramon Aranda. The other suspect, later identified as 19 year old David A. Garcia escaped on foot.
Both of the wounded officers were transported to a local hospital, where Officer Pavelka died during surgery and Officer Campbell was treated and remained in critical but stable condition.
A massive, multi-agency manhunt was mounted for the fleeing suspect, David A. Garcia. In the process a number of Garcia’s family and fellow gang member’s were arrested and detained, charged with harboring and assisting a fugitive felon.
On Thanksgiving morning, November 27, based on information received, Garcia was taken into custody by the Mexican police in Tia Juana. He was turned over to the American authorities at the border, booked and charged with capital murder of a police officer, making him eligible for the death penalty. At a press conference, following Garcia’s arrest, L.A. District Attorney Steve Cooley stated “when it comes to murdering one of our police officers, we don’t forgive, we don’t forget, and we don’t surrender”.
Compounding the tragic death of Officer Matthew Pavelka, is the fact that he is survived by his father, Michael Pavelka, a 29-year veteran detective of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Matthew Pavelka was remembered by more than one of his fellow officers as a charming, light-hearted 26-year-old, with a crown of spiky orange hair, who loved being a cop.
There never was a question as to the career path that Matthew would follow. After high school he joined the Air Force, only because he was too young to enroll in a police academy. He served for five years as a Military Policeman, received an Associate of Arts degree in criminal justice and was intent on further pursuing his education in his chosen field.
On Friday morning, November 20, memorial services for Officer Matthew Pavelka were conducted at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. In attendance, in addition to family and friends, were several thousand peace officers from a myriad of jurisdictions. Our new Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was there attending his first memorial services for a California peace officer who had laid down his life in the line of duty. Also attending was our Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who has attended virtually all of the memorial services for our fallen heroes during his five-year tenure as Attorney General.
Officer Pavelka is survived by his father Michael and his mother Sue Pavelka.