CHP Officer Stephen M. Linen Jr.’s funeral at New Venture Christian Fellowship on Aug. 16, bore many resemblances to the somber gathering of 1,500 last fall for Officer Sean Nava who was killed in a similar accident. Up to 2,000 peace officers, firefighters and others from throughout California were in attendance, as were state officials.
Linen, a 31-year-old San Jose native who had served on the California Highway Patrol force more than six years, was struck and killed Sunday, Aug. 12, on Interstate 5 near San Diego when a drunken-driving suspect slammed into his patrol car as he was issuing a ticket. He was thrown onto the embankment and suffered massive injuries.
Arrested at the scene in the San Diego suburb of Encinitas was Lance Cpl. Jerome A. Bates, a 20-year-old Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton.
Bates ran off the shoulder and struck the patrol car, which burst into flames, said CHP Officer Larry Landeros. A group of correctional officers that passed the accident site tried to administer medical aid. “Linen was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead,” Landeros stated.
“Bates, who was not injured, was taken into custody. His passenger, Christopher Sterling, a 20-year-old Marine who is also stationed at Camp Pendleton, was airlifted to Scripps Memorial and was in fair condition with a broken arm and internal injuries,” Landeros reported. Two people in the pickup truck that were stopped by Linen received minor injuries and were treated and released from the hospital.
Bates, of Victoria, Texas who was arrested at the scene, was charged with two felony counts of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter. CHP Officer Steve Ussher said that Bates has at least one prior arrest related to suspected drunken driving.
At the funeral services conducted by Pastor Sean Mitchell, CHP Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick fought back tears. “This type of tragedy is going to stop,” Helmick said.
“We are going to do everything known to man to make these tragedies stop, and we’ll do that in honor of Michael,” he added, referring to the name Linen’s friends sometimes called him.
State Attorney Gen. Bill Lockyer added, “Steve embodied a sense of duty and a belief (that) service to others matters.”
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante delivered a message from Gov. Gray Davis. “Officer Stephen Linen was a true hero, not because of how he died, but how he lived,” Bustamante read. Then offering his own thoughts Bustamante said, “A man has sacrificed his tomorrows so we may have peace today. Although I never knew Officer Linen, he chose to protect my family and our community. He gave us his ultimate sacrifice and for that we should be humbled.”
CHP Chaplain Hansen gave the eulogy in which he told mourners that Linen was never one to waste time. Directly after his graduation from Mount Carmel High School, he immediately applied to San Diego State College and began his study in the field of criminology.
Even with the heavy workload of college life, he found time to chase another goal, earning a private pilot’s license. Linen often took flights to Catalina and Laughlin, Nevada, his favorite destinations.
Linen graduated from San Diego State in the spring of 1993, with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. His dream of a career in law enforcement was fulfilled when he was accepted into the California Highway Patrol on July 25, three days after his 24th birthday.
In 1998, Linen was nominated for the Burn Institute’s, “Spirit of Courage Award,” for acts of bravery and heroism performed during a rescue of a man trapped in a burning vehicle on I-5 in San Diego.
Colleagues and neighbors described Linen as a quiet man who loved to bowl and recently became engaged to Kristi Robinson, a schoolteacher.
Joe Bennett, Linen’s neighbor who recently spoke to him about the perils of police work, said the officer was not intimidated by the risks of his job. “Danger is just coming out of your home,” Bennett said Linen told him. “You’ve got to look at it that it’s your job and you’re trying to make the community better.”
CHP Officer Abie Carabajal said Linen usually stayed quiet and kept a stern look on his face, an expression that masked “a great heart.” Carabajal said he used to try to make Linen laugh, usually by offering up the greeting, “Hey, Sunshine, how’s it going?”
Santa Ana CHP Officer Danny Young, a Temecula neighbor, said Linen had been planning a vacation in Hawaii in September. Young continued, “I can tell you he did enjoy the job. He worked graveyard a lot and one of the primary purposes of working graveyard is to do what you can to keep DUIs off the road.”
Linen is survived by his mother, Mary Monahan, of Temecula; father, Stephen, of Seattle, Washington; brother, Chris; and fiancée, Kristi Robinson.