White-gloved hands rubbed at wet cheeks as hundreds of uniformed deputies and officers said goodbye to a friend and comrade.
Tears flowed freely when members of a dozen law enforcement agencies crowded into a little church in Vista to pay tribute to sheriff’s Deputy Theodore Leroy Beckmann, killed in a traffic accident while on duty in Bonsall February 8.
Beckmann, 35, of Fallbrook, was “the consummate cop, who knew his beat, the people in it, and took care of business,” Sheriff John Duffy eulogized. “There is no question that Deputy Sheriff Theodore Beckmann did something very worthwhile with his life during his short time on this earth, and he really made a difference.”
Duffy wiped his eyes as he handed Beckmann’s family an American flag and kissed the deputy’s two sons, Theodore, 13, and Steven, 6. They sat with their mother, Brenda Beckmann, of Vista; the deputy’s mother, Evelyn; and other family members at the West Coast Baptist Church.
With them were scores of deputies and officers who had driven, red and blue lights flashing, in a miles-long freeway procession from San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium to the church.
Beckmann was killed instantly when the left half of his patrol car was sheared off by the force of a head-on collision with a flatbed truck that swerved in the wrong lane.
Detective James Rhem, 41, riding with Beckmann, was hospitalized for two days with head and hand injuries. He recalled the horror of watching the oncoming truck approach, and later seeing Beckmann dead in the seat next to him.
“The last thing I saw Ted do was try to turn the steering wheel,” Rhem said., “Losing Ted has given me a new appreciation of the love among this group of officers.”
Truck driver Jose Villareal Anquitano of Fallbrook was arrested on a charge of vehicular manslaughter. He suffered an ear injury.
Officiating at the funeral, Pastor Wesley Clark said that poem Beckmann recently wrote might show that he sensed his impending death.
The poem opened with the lines:
“Night doesn’t always wait until the day is done.
When the shadow is cast, that which is light is taken before its time . . .
But I go on and must not dim,
For I am driven by the light that burns within.”
“I think Ted knew he would go (be killed) on duty,” Deputy Donna Wells said. “I think it bothered him, but he never let it stop him.”
Beckmann’s former wife said she had thought it odd when, in a subdued mood, he came by the office where she works as a dental assistant.
“He wanted to talk, to make sure the boys were doing fine – like he was preparing for something, like he knew he didn’t have much time,” she said.
Beckmann, an eight-year sheriff’s veteran twice decorated, was born in San Francisco. He graduated from Vista High School, served two years in the Navy, and then worked five years as a civilian Navy helicopter mechanic before becoming a deputy.
He and his wife divorced about a year ago, but he kept in close touch with his sons, frequently taking them on outings, Mrs. Beckmann said during a post-funeral gathering for family and friends.
“He deeply loved his boys,” Mrs. Beckmann said. “He had the nobleness of a man in another century. He wanted to be a knight in shining armor.”
Beckmann received a commendation last summer for disarming a drug addict who took four people hostage at Fallbrook Hospital. Facing the man’s drawn gun, that deputy talked him into surrendering.
In 1985, Beckmann won a medal for his work on a street crime team aimed at drug dealing in the 500 block of South Santa Fe Avenue in Vista.
His colleagues praised Beckmann’s courage and professionalism as a deputy who would stand his ground, support his partners and lighten a tense situation with a joke and smile.
Deputies Wells, Pat Beatty, Bob Bishop, and Roy Castaneda, who met Beckmann at Vista High School, also recalled him as a prankster who talked back to teachers, set fire to paper in the restrooms, and threw oranges at passing sheriff’s cars.
Beckmann’s sister, Penni Hughes of Texas, said she used to tag along after her older brother, but also fell victim to his mischief when he helped her climb a tree and then left her to figure out how to get down along.
“He was my best friend back then,” she said. “As a kid, he always talked about becoming a cop.”
Sgt. Derek Clark said at the service that Beckmann, a former partner and longtime friend,” put his heart and soul “into his job.
– The San Diego Union
– San Jose Mercury News