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Fullerton PD honors its first fallen officer, Jerry Hatch, with relatives, former colleagues

Fullerton PD honors its first fallen officer, Jerry Hatch, with relatives, former colleagues

Fullerton PD honors its first fallen officer, Jerry Hatch, with relatives, former colleagues

By Lou Ponsi

Fullerton Police Officer Jerry Hatch, badge No. 499, never will be forgotten.

Police Chief Dan Hughes wanted the family of the fallen officer to know that.

At about 9 p.m. June 30, 1975, Hatch, who was 23 and only about two months out of the academy, was on his way to work when he pulled over to extinguish a car fire on the 91 Freeway near Beach Boulevard.

Hatch was just about to put the extinguisher back in his trunk when a drunken driver struck him. He died in the hospital.

Hatch left behind his wife, Ruth, daughter Audrey, who was 2 at the time, his parents, Dorothy and Paul, and six younger siblings.

Last week, on the 41st anniversary of Hatch’s death, his widow, parents, daughter, five of six siblings and a host of extended family were on hand for an informal, yet meaningful, gathering in the Mural Room at Fullerton Police Department.

“We want this community to always be reminded of his sacrifice and, quite frankly, the tremendous sacrifice that all of you have made all these years,” Hughes told the family at the gathering. “We wanted to share with the family that the department would do everything it could to make sure the memory of Jerry Hatch would never be forgotten.”

Hughes went on to list the measures taken by the department to honor Hatch — the first FPD officer killed in the line of duty.

A bronze plaque with Hatch’s image hangs on a wall in the department’s reception area, along with a plaque honoring Tommy De La Rosa, the second FPD officer who was killed in the line of duty.

A patrol car has the name “Officer Jerry Hatch” inscribed on the rear fender on the passenger side, and a banner honoring Hatch hangs on the south side of Commonwealth Avenue.

A section of the 91 freeway between Magnolia Avenue and State College Boulevard will soon be named for Hatch, with signs on the eastbound 91, east of Magnolia, and westbound 91, west of State College, that say Jerry Hatch Memorial Highway.

Hatch’s name also is among the 53 fallen officers listed on the Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial at the O.C. Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.

“It’s super fantastic,” said Ruth Huntzinger, Hatch’s widow, who traveled from Arizona for the gathering. “Such an honor … We feel like royalty and we certainly appreciate it.”

At least three retired FPD officers who served with Hatch, along with several current officers, were present for the event.

“He always had a jovial attitude,” said Mike Montgomery, who attended the academy and served on the force with Hatch.

Montgomery currently is an investigator with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

FPD retired officer Bill Wallis, who volunteers with the department’s Family Crimes Unit, remembered Hatch as an officer with “a smile all the time.”

After the gathering in the Mural Room, Hughes took the guests on a tour of the department.

“It was so touching that they would do it on the anniversary when he died,” Hatch’s sister, Karen Anderson, said of the gathering.

Anderson was 17 and had just graduated high school when her brother was killed.

“It was very sweet that they would remember him,” she said.