The Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa was the setting June 29, where several thousand mourners honored Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Edward Parsons, who died June 24, from injuries suffered in a traffic collision.
Hundreds of police motorcycles were parked four abreast and dozens of rows deep outside the chapel in a silent tribute during the midmorning service. Their riders from police agencies throughout Southern California were inside remembering one of their own, the first Orange County Sheriff’s Department motorcycle officer to die in the line of duty. The officers were reminded anew of their vulnerability while piloting the two wheelers.
Parsons, 36, was mortally injured June 19, when a driver traveling 50 miles an hour ran a red light at an intersection in Aliso Viejo, striking his motorcycle and throwing him 60 feet through the air. He remained in a medically induced coma at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo until June 24, when family members authorized doctors to remove him from life support.
Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona said, “Steve Parsons had done everything he possibly could,” adding that the father of two small children was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Nobody could have expected entering an intersection 15 seconds after the light had gone green that someone could have run a red light,” Carona continued. “Every single day [cops] know something like this can happen. No matter how good they are, how hard they train. Something like this can happen.”
According to witnesses, Sylvia Steinhardt, 77, was driving about 40 mph in a 55 mph zone when she ran a red light and hit Parsons’ motorcycle. Authorities say Steinhardt apparently didn’t see the traffic signal and struck Parsons without slowing down. The accident remains under investigation and Steinhardt will not be charged until it is concluded.
Parsons’ wife, Kathy, told the press that she didn’t want any harm to come to the car’s driver. “I haven’t met her,” she said, “I don’t want her to be hurt in any way. She has her own thing to deal with.”
More than 400 neighbors, friends and colleagues honored Parsons at a Candlelight Vigil on June 28, at the Costeau Park in Laguna Hills. Speakers at the event included Lt. Rex Hatch, chief of Police Services; Mayor Joel Lautenschleger, and Sheriff-Coroner Mike Carona.
Friends and fellow officers recalled Parsons at the emotional funeral service on June 29, as a man who could be “goofy” at times, but also someone who was absolutely devoted to his family and a no-nonsense cop with a reputation for writing more than his share of tickets.
Sheriff Carona told the audience, “The first time I met Steve Parsons was for a traffic stop, then he writes me a citation,” as laughter echoed through the sanctuary.
Deputy Brian Hall, Parsons’ friend, explained why other motorcycle officers nicknamed Parsons the “Iceman” during a 20-minute eulogy. Hall said, “He wrote tickets, that’s what he did all day. Nobody got a break from Steve. He loved his job, but he loved his family first.”
Calvary Pastor Chuck Smith said the story prompted him to add that Parsons “gave a new meaning to ticket-master. Drawing from the message of Psalm 23, Smith said that Parsons, like David, “wielded a rod and staff as he was enduring to make that neighborhood [where he patrolled in Laguna Hills] the safest place to drive.”
Gov. Gray Davis called Parsons “a true California hero” in a letter read by Carona. He wrote that the officer’s memory must be honored “in a way that does justice to his life.”
Carona told the mourners that the highest honor Parsons could possibly earn came from his wife when she said he would be remembered not just as a great cop, but also as a great father.
Graveside services were held at the Pacific View Memorial Park where Parsons’ ashes were inurned.
Parsons began his career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in October 1989, after completing his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Long Beach. In 1993 he earned a master’s degree in public administration. After graduating from the sheriff’s academy, Parsons worked at the Intake/Release Center.
In 1994 he was transferred to South Operations where he was assigned to patrol duty in Laguna Hills. Parsons became Long Beach’s first motorcycle officer in 1997. He was named “Laguna Hills’ Officer of the Year” in 1998.
In addition to his wife, Kathy; his daughter, Kelsey, 6; son, Nathan, 3; his parents and a sister survive Parsons.
A fund has been established to assist Parsons’ family. Contributions may be made to Deputy Steve Parsons, in care of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, 1314 West Fifth Street, Santa Ana, CA 92703.