Sheriff’s Deputy Paul R. Bush was a burly weight lifter, but he often used his easy charm instead of muscle in defusing confrontations on the street. Yet, it appears the veteran lawman had little chance to speak to the young man he pulled over on a routine traffic stop Sept. 12, 1990. Investigators believe that Bush had just got Oscar Romero’s drivers license when the man pulled a gun and began blazing away. In seconds, both men lay dying on the ground.
Family and friends recalled the 37-year-old San Jose man as a dedicated, streetwise deputy who never let the difficulty of police work sour his giddy lust for life. “He realized there was a significant amount of danger to what he was doing, but he always considered himself very careful in what he did,” said Scotts Valley police Capt. Tom Bush, one of the deputy’s three brothers.
“He had such an ability to interact with people that he felt he could pretty much talk his way out of any situation. He could talk to people in all walks of life.”
Bush was a 12-year veteran who had enjoyed working a variety of assignments, including a six-year patrol stint, plain-clothes duty tracking down fugitives, and a tour as a jailer.
He occasionally wore a bulletproof vest, but wasn’t using one when he was wounded twice in the chest and once in the hip and the leg, said sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Dahn. Use of vests is voluntary in the department.
Bush’s death seemed doubly cruel, coming just eight months after he and wife, Colleen, celebrated the birth of their first child, Brett. “The son was the highlight of his life,” Tom Bush said as relatives gathered at the Soquel home of his parents, Charles and Isabelle Bush. “For the past eight months, all he could talk about was his son and his wife.”
Another brother, Steve Bush, said he felt “just tremendous anger” when he heard the news of his brother’s death. “You want to hit something,” he said.
At the sheriff’s department, a somber mood muffled the typically informal atmosphere.
Issie Mosunic, a warrants clerk who worked with Bush, said, “He was always happy, always kidding around. He always treated me like his mom. He was just a real caring, loving individual.”
Despite their sorrow, many friends smiled when asked what they remembered about Bush. He was a guy with a mischievous streak and a winning wit.
Sgt. Bill Cordoni, who supervised Bush when he worked in the warrants division, recalled the slain deputy as a happy-go-lucky guy’ who “used to pull all kinds of practical jokes on the guys.” Once, when a detective reneged on a promise, Bush and his partner filled their colleague’s car with styrofoam pellets, Cordoni recalled.
Bush was born in Long Beach and moved with his family to San Jose in the early 1960s. He graduated in 197l from Branham High School and attended West Valley and Cabrillo colleges, where he played football. He Joined the sheriff’s department in 1978. Bush loved classical music and was fascinated by Civil War history, taking his wife to visit historic sites while on vacation.
Sheriff Charles Gillingham said Bush’s work file is thick with letters of praise from citizens lauding his “great sensitivity and understanding of the situation” and his “kindness and thoroughness.” “He was an excellent officer for us,” Gillingham said. “His evaluations were always exceptional. It’s a real sad day for all of us.