Honor Roll

Ray C. Willert

Officer Ray C. Willert, 25, was the only Turlock police officer to die from a criminal act.

Willert was responding to provide back up to a 211 alarm at the Western Union Bank in Turlock. The first two officers on scene found a man matching the description of the suspects in the parking lot next to the Western Union.

Officer Willert was using proper tactics as he approached the other officers. He was using the Western Union building as cover as he approached. As he passed the glass front door of the Western Union, he was shot in the forehead. He fell to the ground instantly. The person in the lot was not involved. The other officers rushed to Officer Willert’s aid and returned fire. Two suspects were taken into custody near the scene, but another managed to escape the scene. Along pursuit ended with the suspect being shot. This individual is serving a life sentence.

One of the bank tellers inside was on the telephone with a local radio staton when the robbery began. The lady on the radio could hear the robbery as it was happening. She heard the teller begging for her life as the suspects were deciding weather or not to kill every person inside the bank, to leave no witnesses. At that moment Ofc. Willert passed the front window and the shooting began. Ofc. Willert saved every person in the Western Union Bank that day.

Officer Willert was survived by his wife, Connie and three-year-old daughter, Wendy.

Tributes in honor of Officer Ray C. Willert

  • I was a 23 year old copywriter at KCEY radio in Turlock when I took the call from the Western Union office. The woman had a telegraph for a person who no longer worked at the station, and I was looking for contact information when I heard her scream and drop the phone. A man was yelling at her, threatening to shoot her, and she was pleading for her life. I ran into the broadcast area where the DJ was just starting a record and told him what was happening. Marty took the phone while I went into another office to call the police. Neither one of us thought to record the call, something that I believe could have been done by the DJ, but none of it seemed real. I heard the man threatening the women, she was crying, and it was an absolutely helpless feeling. It only got worse when I heard the gunshot.

    I didn’t learn until later that Officer Willert had been killed. When I eventually learned more details and realized he was just a couple years older than me and had a daughter, it became much more personal. I was pregnant with our first child at the time.

    I’ll never forget the sounds that day, the sense that it was all part of a TV drama taking place in another room, and I’ve never forgotten what it felt like to witness the sound of gunshot that took an innocent life. He was a young man just doing his job. It’s been over 46 years now, and I can still hear that terrible sound.