Funeral Plans Announced for Deputy Killed in SJ Collision

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Tribute and funeral services were announced Thursday for a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy killed in a crash at a San Jacinto intersection.

Deputy Brett Michael Harris, 27, of Temecula was gravely injured in the predawn hours of May 12 at Esplanade Avenue and State Street. He died less than two days later from what Sheriff Chad Bianco described as a “catastrophic brain injury.”

Services to honor the fallen lawman — the third line-of-duty death among sheriff’s personnel in the last five months — are scheduled for Wednesday.

According to sheriff’s officials, a procession of law enforcement vehicles will escort Harris’ hearse from Miller-Jones Menifee Memorial Park, 26770 Murrieta Road, to Grove Community Church, 19900 Grove Community Drive, in Riverside. The procession will get underway shortly before 9 a.m.

From the mortuary, it will go westbound on Ethanac Road to Interstate 215, turning northbound. The procession will continue on I-215 until reaching Van Buren Boulevard in Riverside, where all funeral traffic will exit westbound, continuing to Orange Terrace Parkway going west, then transitioning to Abrams Drive northbound. After going two blocks, the procession will turn west again onto Grove Community Drive, with a final turn northbound onto Barton Drive and into the church parking lot.

Officials emphasized that only public safety vehicles will be permitted in the procession. However, members of the public were invited to take safe roadside positions to pay their final respects.

The remembrance service is slated to begin at 10 a.m. inside the church.

Harris was married, and in addition to his wife, left behind his parents, a twin sister and a brother. He graduated from the sheriff’s academy in 2019, and began his career in 2020 as a correctional deputy, serving at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta until January 2022, when he was transferred to patrol duty, assigned to the Hemet station.

“Brett loved serving his community,” according to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation. “Apart from his work, he also was involved in programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the (sheriff’s) Explorers Program. He also would volunteer his time to read to his sister’s second-grade class and come into her school to talk with kids. He did this right up until the on-duty traffic collision that took his life.”

The foundation established a Help A Hero fundraiser for the fallen lawman:

According to Bianco and the California Highway Patrol, the young deputy was en route to a call when there was a collision involving his patrol SUV and a Nissan Maxima, occupied by only the motorist.

The crash happened about 2:15 a.m. on May 12, while Harris was traveling westbound on Esplanade. CHP Officer Jason Montez said he entered the intersection at the same time as the Nissan, which was going north on State.

“The two vehicles crashed in the intersection, which is controlled by traffic lights,” Montez said. “After the collision, the sheriff’s patrol vehicle crashed into a light pole.”

The SUV was hit on the driver’s side.

Montez did not specify which motorist was at fault — a determination that is expected to be made in the course of the CHP’s investigation.

Bianco said another patrolman, who reached the location prior to firefighters, attempted to “extract” Harris and suffered a knee injury as a result. That deputy was treated and released from Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley the same day.

According to Montez, the 54-year-old woman at the wheel of the Nissan, identified only as a Hemet resident, suffered minor injuries and was also treated and released from the hospital the same day.

The CHP’s Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team is conducting the crash investigation. Under a longstanding sheriff’s department policy, the CHP is tasked with handling independent evaluations whenever sheriff’s vehicles are involved in wrecks.

Harris’ was the third line-of-duty death since the end of last year.

On the afternoon of Dec. 29, 32-year-old Deputy Isaiah Albert Cordero was gunned down after he stopped a convicted felon for a traffic violation in Jurupa Valley. The shooter was killed by pursuing deputies following a nearly two-hour chase that went through multiple cities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, ending on Interstate 15 in Norco.

On the afternoon of Jan. 13, 30-year-old Deputy Darnell Calhoun was allegedly shot to death by a Lake Elsinore man while investigating a domestic disturbance.

Jesse Navarro, 42, is charged with murder in that slaying. He was shot several times by a deputy summoned to assist Calhoun but has since recovered.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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