Family, friends and law enforcement personnel gathered Aug. 20, at the First Presbyterian Church in Bishop, then later at the East Line Street Cemetery, to bid farewell to Bishop Police Officer Richard “Rich” E. Perkins.
Perkins, 51, died Wednesday, Aug. 15, when a semi-truck struck his patrol car as he made a U-turn to assist in a pursuit. He was responding to the call of a possible DUI driver when the accident occurred on Highway 395. Truck driver, Jose L. Marquez, a 42-year-old El Paso, Texas, resident, was not injured during the crash. Perkins died of his injuries at Northern Inyo Hospital, police said.
State Attorney Gen. Bill Lockyer and California Highway Patrol Commissioner Dwight Helmick were in attendance at the services, as was the director of the California Office of Criminal Justice Planning, Frank Grimes.
During the eulogy Perkins was remembered as a man of faith and family. “Everything he did was for God’s glory,” said one speaker. “He realized there was more to life than work and hobbies.”
Lockyer called Perkins a “hero who served the people of this community well. We can never repay the debt we owe him, but we can vow never to forget him.”
“‘Perk’ was a good officer,” said an emotional Bishop Chief Bruce Dishion. “Even after 11 years on the job, he had not allowed the work to take its toll as so often happens in the law enforcement field. Richard always maintained his sense of moral duty, his commitment to serve the people of Bishop and his sense of humor.
“He was always able to enforce the letter of the law while balancing that with a compassion for the people he came into contact with. That ability is a gift. I will deeply miss him.”
Bishop Mayor Frank Crom, described Perkins as a “wonderful man, a compassionate person and an outstanding police officer. He was the kind of police officer that communities like Bishop need and desire. He always listened and did all he could to help those in need. I know that when he went home after a day’s work, he had the satisfaction of knowing that he’d done a good job.”
Crom also praised Perkins’ work with the Bishop Mural Society. A board member and participating artist, Perkins contributed in some capacity to nearly all the historical murals established in the community.
Crom continued, “He was a wonderful artist and a real asset to this community.”
Perkins was credited with the idea, concept and completion of the “Dangerous Arrest” mural on the east side of the police station. Barbara Williams, president of the Bishop Mural Society, stated that a memorial plaque honoring Perkins would be placed at the site of “Dangerous Arrest” in the upcoming weeks.
Inyo County Sheriff Dan Lucas said, “Our law agencies are so small that even though Richard worked for the Bishop Police Department, our department feels this loss as if he was one of our own. I’m sure the CHP feels the same way.”
Bishop Police Officers Phil West and Steve Day also recalled Perkins’ dedication to family, friends, church and community. He was one of the founders of the Bishop Police Mounted Unit, along with West and Day.
“He was a person so steadfast in his values to his family, to his friends and to his co-workers,” West said. “He was a true blend of God, of values, of work ethic and love.”
Day called Perkins a “courageous guardian of the innocent and the right.” He also recalled that when one asked Perkins how he was doing, he would often reply, “I’m looking forward to the challenges the day may bring.”
The funeral service ended with Perkins’ children placing some of their father’s personal effects in with his remains. One such item was his pipe, familiar to all who knew him. Before coming to the Bishop Police Department, Perkins had worked for the Mono County Sheriff’s Department and the Mammoth Lakes Police Department. He also had been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.
He was the first officer in the department’s history to die in the line of duty, according to Bishop Police officials.
Perkins’ survivors include his wife, Cheryl; son, Andrew; daughter, Pauli; daughter and son-in-law, Kati and Ken Gray; grandchildren, Katelyn and Hannah Gray; parents, Eugene and Barbara Perkins; sister and brother-in-law, B.J. and Bob Hayner; niece, Heidi Hayner; brother and sister-in-law, Patrick and Lisa Perkins; and nephews, Jason and Alex Perkins.
Donations in Richard Perkins’ memory may be made in his name at Union Bank of California, 362 North Main Street, Bishop, CA 93514. The funds donated to this memorial fund will be given to the Bishop Mural Society at the request of the Perkins’ family.