More than 300 uniformed law enforcement officers from California, Arizona and Nevada joined family members and community friends in mourning the death of Deputy Russell Dean Roberts. He was the first deputy from the Colorado Station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to die in the line of duty.
Roberts, 29, was killed while conducting a follow-up investigation of a traffic accident on River Road in Needles. He had decided for safety reasons to return during daylight hours on Saturday, September 16, 1995, to measure skid marks and complete other accident investigation tasks. The accident had occurred on a dangerous curve the previous night, and he didn’t want to be hidden from motorists by the darkness.
Reports from the Needles station indicated that Roberts parked his vehicle with its warning lights flashing on a knoll where it could be seen from both directions. He was about 100 yards from the car on the opposite side of the road when a motorist entering the curve began to skid. The driver apparently overcorrected, lost control and hit the deputy No arrest was made.
Emergency personnel responded immediately, but their efforts proved futile. He died upon arrival at Desert Communities Hospital.
A former military policeman, Roberts joined the Needles Police Department in 1989 and became a deputy six months later when the city began contracting for law enforcement services with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Captain Rodney Hoops told mourners, “Russell never had a mean word to say about anyone: those he worked with, those he worked for, and those he arrested. He never complained about his assignments, just did them to the best of his ability. He never was afraid to ask questions, take constructive criticism or learn from his mistakes.”
Hoops said that Roberts always volunteered for a variety of tasks, from playing McGruff, the Crime Dog, to helping the Crime Prevention Officer with Neighborhood Watch programs. “Roberts wasn’t afraid to go the extra mile to help someone with a question or a task.”
Roberts also served as the boating officer in charge of the medical aid pontoon boat that operated on the three major holiday weekends on Lake Havasu. In addition, he was a regular boating officer who provided patrol on the Colorado River and Lake Havasu throughout the year.
Dispatcher Bob Duncan recalled the time one of Needles’ more colorful figures was on the streets, a disturbed and physically violent individual. Deputies were warned to call for backup if they encountered this individual, which is what Roberts did on this occasion. By the time the backup arrived, Roberts was covered in dust and the individual in question was under arrest and safely ensconced in the back of the patrol car. When asked what happened, Roberts replied, “I guess I got a little too close.”
Duncan told those in attendance, “We just didn’t lose a deputy. We just didn’t lose a husband and a father We all lost a friend.”
Roberts is survived by his wife Carol and sons Benjamin, 9, and Trevor; 6. He and his wife were also caring for his 15-year-old niece. His father-in-law is retired CHP Commander Billy Bradshaw.
A trust fund has been established for the family. Contributions may be made to the Carol Roberts Trust Fund, Bank of America, 1001 West Broadway, Needles, CA 92363.