William “Bill” Lehn was devoted to his community and his profession – and to motorcycles. He loved motorcycles and had always wanted to be a motorcycle officer.
That’s what some of his friends recalled the day after Lehn was killed, June 21, 1994, when his Fresno police motorcycle collided with a car while he was attempting to make a traffic stop.
Lehn was in pursuit with his lights flashing and siren on when a car pulled out in front of him. His motorcycle crashed into the Toyota Camry near the rear of the driver’s side door. The driver, who was not injured, was questioned and released. The vehicle Lehn was chasing was later found abandoned. It had been stolen.
“It was Bill’s dream to work motorcycles,” said Jerry Costner, another Kings County sheriff’s deputy. “That was part of the reason he went to Fresno P.D. He was an excellent officer. Very nice, very gentle, unless you riled him up. He was a joy to work with,” Costner said.
Lehn began his career in law enforcement in 1979 when he joined the City of San Joaquin Police Department as a reserve officer. In 1980 he was hired by the Kings County Sheriff’s Department where he was a deputy until he was hired by the Fresno Police Department in 1986. In August 1991 he was assigned to Traffic Bureau, working traffic on a motorcycle.
Lehn, 38, was born in Hanford and raised in Lemoore, graduating in 1974 from Lemoore High School, where he was active in student government and a member of the baseball and basketball teams.
“He was just a great kid,” Fred Mahoney, his former high school basketball coach, recalled. “He was the type of player all coaches would like to coach.”
Richard Coxsey, Lehn’s high school chemistry teacher, remembered his former student. “He was so pleasant and cooperative and with a great sense of humor.”
Lehn worked as a reserve officer for the San Joaquin Police Department from September to December 1977, when the department disbanded. The Kings County Sheriff’s Department helped put him through the police academy, and he went to work for the department on July 24, 1980.
Lieutenant John Estes, a sheriff’s patrol sergeant at the time, said Lehn was the type of officer every supervisor would have been happy to have. “You never heard anyone say anything bad about him,” Estes said. “He was a pleasure to know and to work with.”
“Everybody liked him,” Tim McFadden, a Fresno police sergeant, said. “Really, there is no other way to describe him; he was a nice guy. You asked him to do something and he would do it.”
Sergeant Mitch Gerking said he kidded Lehn for years for riding Kawasakis instead of “real” motorcycles. As his eulogy was ending, Gerking looked down at the casket, saying, “To my friend, Bill, rest in peace with the knowledge that we will take care of your family.” Then he added, “I can no longer call you ‘scooter jockey’ because where you’re going they all ride Harleys.”
Lehn is survived by his wife, Tina, of Fresno; three daughters, Christina, 16, Valerie, 14, and Melissa, 11, all of Hanford; a stepson, Robert Gretsch, 7, of Fresno; and his mother, Evelyn. Remembrances may be sent to Officer William “Bill” Lehn Memorial Fund, 994 N. Van Ness, Fresno, CA 93728.