Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun, who was gunned down last week while responding to a domestic disturbance, was remembered as a man of great faith, affection for his family and dedication to public service Saturday at a memorial service in Rancho Cucamonga.
“After last Friday I will always have the pain and the sorrow of the Calhoun family edged into my heart,” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said at the public memorial at Abundant Living Family Church.
“I will forever pray that I never have to hold another deputy’s wife as she cries out in disbelief or hear the pain of a grieving mother,” Bianco continued. “When a deputy or a police officer leaves for work the last thing a family ever considers is that their hero will not be returning home. Vanessa, while you and the boys have lost Darnell, you have 4,000 aunts and uncles at your beck and call. You will always be a part of us, you’ll be our family and we will always be there for you.”
Chief David Nisleit of the San Diego Police Department — where Calhoun worked prior to joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department — also paid tribute to Calhoun.
“Even though Darnell’s time with the San Diego Police Department was short, it was actually huge,” Nisleit told the gathering. “He made us a better city, he made us a better department, he made us better as officers every single day watching his lead on how he dealt with people, how he dealt with members of our department. I want to thank the entire Calhoun family for sharing Darnell with us for those two and a half years because his service to the city of San Diego and the San Diego Police Department was phenomenal.
“My deepest, deepest condolences for your loss. Let’s add 2,000 more aunts and uncles from the San Diego Police Department that will always be here for you,” Nisleit said.
The memorial was followed by private interment services.
Members of the public showed their support ahead of Saturday’s memorial by turning out along the 50-mile route of the procession from Murrieta Valley Funeral Home at 24651 Washington Ave. to the Rancho Cucamonga church. Personnel from the RCSD and the San Diego Police Department led the procession. Calhoun formally worked for the SDPD.
It proceeded northbound on Washington, then eastbound on Kalmia Street to northbound Interstate 15; I-15 to Fourth Street in Rancho Cucamonga, then westbound on Fourth to Milliken Avenue; northbound on Milliken to Arrow Route, then westbound on Arrow to White Oak Avenue northbound; and finally, a westbound turn onto Civic Center Drive, into the parking lot of Abundant Living Family Church.
A viewing of the fallen lawman’s casket was held at the funeral home Friday night, and a candlelight vigil was held Tuesday night outside the sheriff’s Lake Elsinore station, where close to 150 people gathered to remember the 30-year-old deputy.
Lake Elsinore Mayor Natasha Johnson said Calhoun’s “sacrifice reminds us of the ultimate price our law enforcement officers are willing to pay to keep our families and our communities safe.”
Earlier this week, the fallen lawman’s family released a statement thanking residents and others for their “outpouring of love and support.”
“While we are heartbroken, we also celebrate the gift of Darnell — the husband, father, son, brother and deputy,” according to the family statement. “His life, though cut short, is a blessing. Our faith in Jesus will carry us through this, and we know we will be reunited with Darnell once again.”
Calhoun was allegedly gunned down Friday by 42-year-old Jesse Navarro of Lake Elsinore.
The deputy, who left behind a pregnant wife and two young sons, died after he was rushed to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, where the suspect was also taken and remains in critical condition after he was shot by a deputy backing up Calhoun.
A “Help A Hero” fundraiser was established for the slain lawman. As of Saturday, $241,860 in donations had been made on behalf of Calhoun’s family. The fundraiser link is at helpahero.com/campaign/deputy-darnell-calhoun.
“He was a husband, a father of two young boys — ages 2 and 4 — and a third baby boy on the way,” according to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation, which initiated the fundraiser. “He will be remembered as a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, a son-in-law, a brother-in-law and a loyal friend.”
Bianco said Calhoun was fatally shot about 4:20 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13, in the 18000 block of Hilldale Lane, near Grand Avenue, when he approached a residence from which a 911 call had been placed indicating there was a domestic disturbance.
Calhoun was hit when Navarro allegedly opened fire from the residence, Bianco said.
“The second deputy on the scene found Deputy Calhoun wounded in the street,” Bianco said last week. “A gunfight ensued with the suspect, who was shot.”
Background information on Navarro was unavailable.
Calhoun was assigned to the Lake Elsinore station after he laterally transferred from the San Diego Police Department just under one year ago.
The SDPD posted a message last week saying personnel were “devastated to learn of the passing of Deputy Darnell Calhoun, an SDPD officer until 2022.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues in SDPD and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office.”
Exactly one week prior to Calhoun’s slaying, Deputy Isaiah Albert Cordero was laid to rest.
The 32-year-old motorcycle deputy was shot to death on the afternoon of Dec. 29 by a convicted felon during a traffic stop in Jurupa Valley. The man was killed two hours later during a gun battle with deputies attempting to arrest him after a lengthy pursuit that ended on southbound I-15 in Norco.
Cordero’s had been the first deputy line-of-duty death in Riverside County in 15 years.