Observance for Kimberley Hemminger
Observance for SPPD Officer Kimberly Hemminger unites two families
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: July 26, 2013
Kimberley Hemminger had two families that gathered Monday to observe the one-year anniversary of her loss - her parents, brother and other relatives, as well as her Santa Paula Police family.
The observance was held July 22 at the Santa Paula Police Memorial at Railroad Plaza Park for Kimberley, 33, a resident of Oxnard when she was killed July 22, 2012 after she was ejected and trapped under the Jeep she was riding in. She had been a SPPD officer since 2005, and with her horse Scooby a member of the SPPD and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrols.
Martha Brown of Citizens Patrol was holding a bouquet of flowers to give to Kimberley’s mother Sharon when she arrived for the ceremony. “I spent some time with Kimberley on and off duty,” including a trip to Las Vegas, and aside from being a dedicated police officer Brown said “Kimberley was also a lot of fun.”
Flags at the monument were at half-mast and the memorial was surrounded by floral tributes. SPPD officers, reserve officers and community service officers, dispatch and office staff, Explorers and Citizens Patrol took part in the ceremony also attended by the full City Council and City Manager Jaime Fontes. Outside agency police representatives included former SPPD Sgt. Ryan Smith, now a University of Santa Barbara law enforcement officer.
Police Chief Steve McLean accompanied Hemminger family members to the remembrance.
“As we look back on the past year,” Senior SPPD Officer/Chaplain Walter Harper told the crowd, “we have many moments of memory” of Kimberley as well as “what ifs?” The “sting and shock of her stunning loss” still is felt, but, Harper noted, “Kim will always be alive and vibrant in our hearts and minds.”
“When I first put in for chief I kept hearing her story,” and when McLean learned of the memorial service for Kimberley he said he attended, “wore a suit and sat in a pew.” Officers have told him about “how Kimberley was looking for her niche,” and although she had an interest in forensics, “she wanted to be a sniper,” no doubt something the determined Kimberley would have excelled at.
Not only was Kimberley a fine officer, but also a fine co-worker and friend, a “team player that would do anything for anyone.” A parolee who had been on the verge of going to trial had changed his plea to guilty based on how well Kimberley had treated him during his arrest. It was a reflection of how she treated all, “from her horse Scooby and dog Cammie to some parolee down on his luck.”
But most of all Kimberley loved her family: “She was your best friend, wasn’t she Sharon?” said McLean. “Wallace [Kimberley’s father], she was your baby girl wasn’t she? She was stubborn, wasn’t she?” a trait McLean said Kimberley demonstrated when it came to getting her horse.
Kimberley bought a house next door to her parents where her brother Jason - and later his wife - also lived. “She was your little sister,” said McLean. “When she brought guys home nobody was good enough for your sister.”
Law enforcement “also takes care of our family,” and McLean said each year there would be a gathering to remember Kimberley and the officers on the monument. The SPPD Memorial was dedicated in May 2011 in honor of Marshal Henry Norman, gunned down in 1913, and SPPD Officer James Barmore, who was killed in a motorcycle crash while responding to a call in February 1953.
“Officers take care of each other, we’re a family, we’re a team,” and, said McLean, “all of Kimberley’s family is a part of our family.”
Following the observance, Sharon Hemminger said her family appreciates that the SPPD family “are all still in touch... today was our very first day of a vacation we had planned, but they said we’ll make sure you’ll be here at 7 p.m. Santa Paula has been there for us, the SPPD especially... they’ve all made us feel we’re a part of their family.”
Lt. Ishmael Cordero said the observance - and the memories of Kimberley it evoked - “brings back our feelings when it happened... but in a sense it’s a relief because we do this for Kimberley as an honor and tribute. The most difficult thing I’ve had to do is knock on people’s doors in the middle of the night to tell them their daughter or son passed away,” but Cordero said notifying Kimberley’s parents she had been killed “was the most difficult.”
The Hemmingers’ loss, said McLean, would be compounded if they thought her law enforcement family “forgot about her... that would be painful too.”
Reserve Lt. Brad Tallent organized a recent 5K Run that paid tribute to Kimberley and Reserve Officer Dave Bartlett, who died in a single vehicle crash in February 2011. Hopefully, Kimberley’s memorial observance brought some small measure of healing to her dual families, although Tallent said at times the poignant remembrance “tested everyone’s composure.”
In May, Christopher Blankenship, 45, of Santa Paula, a former longtime SPPD reserve officer, received a suspended prison sentence and probation after he pleaded guilty to charges related to felony drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter that resulted in Kimberley’s death. The two had reportedly been dating a year at the time of the accident.