More than 500 police officers came to pay tribute Jan. 14 to a slain comrade, Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy Michael Gray, 40. Gray died Jan. 13 without regaining consciousness after being shot Jan. 3 by a mentally deranged loner who lived off the land in the Santa Cruz mountains.
“I’ve lived here since 1945, and I’m quite sure this is the largest gathering I’ve ever seen here,” said Neil Monahan, 67-year-old retired Oakland firefighter.
“The turnout’s fantastic. What else can you say?” said a Santa Cruz sheriff’s captain.
St. John’s Catholic Church, where a Mass of Christian Burial was said for Gray, is just a hundred yards from where the seven-year police veteran was critically wounded, and only two blocks from his home.
The unpretentious white church was filled with 600 people. About 250 – including 120 officers – stood silently outside listening to the service over a loudspeaker. Even the air was still, and chimney smoke drifted up through the trees on the hillside.
Gray’s oak coffin, draped with the American flag, lay before a flower-filled altar. Beside the wreaths was a display of “get well” notes written by children of DeLaveaga Elementary School, a reminder of Gray’s 10-day struggle to live after he was shot.
After the funeral procession left for Felton Cemetery, the assembled officers stood silently for 10 minutes as the local fire siren wailed.
Later, the hundreds of police vehicles drove off in a giant motorcade with emergency lights flashing.
Said Santa Cruz sheriff’s Lt. Don Lovejoy, “When an officer is shot for totally senseless reasons, there’s bound to be an outpouring of feeling.”
“He was a good cop and was well-liked by the community that he lived in,” said a somber Sheriff Al Noren, who declared a two-week mourning period and ordered all the county’s flags to be flown at half-staff.
Gray, an Army veteran, joined the Sheriff’s Department in 1975. He was honored for his rescue efforts during the mudslides in the Love Creek area in 1983.
He was survived by his wife, Deanna, and his 6-year-old son, Bobby.
Highway Patrol officer Jeff Lee, 24, who was shot when he came to Gray’s aid, was treated and released from the hospital. The man accused of the attacks, a 44-year-old recluse named Leslie Grover Wyman, killed himself in the woods after the shootings.