Purple Heart medal left at tribute to fallen San Diego officer

Police hope to find the person who left the medal at the police memorial downtown

By Debbi Baker
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego police hope to find the person who left a Purple Heart at the police memorial downtown where candles continue to burn in honor of the SDPD officer who was gunned down last week.

The medal, which police officers believe to be authentic, was left Saturday morning sometime between 8:30 and 9 a.m. at the granite monument that bears the names of 32 officers who died in the line of duty and which will soon be inscribed with that of Officer Jonathan “JD” De Guzman.

De Guzman, a 16-year-veteran, was killed and his partner Wade Irwin was wounded after the officers were gunned down Thursday night in Southcrest in what Chief Shelley Zimmerman described as a pedestrian stop.

This undated file photo provided by the San Diego Police Department shows San Diego Police officer Jonathan De Guzman.
This undated file photo provided by the San Diego Police Department shows San Diego Police officer Jonathan De Guzman. (San Diego Police Department via AP, File)

A watch commander who was on duty Saturday said he saw a man get out of his car and walk over to the memorial and put something down next to a folded flag, San Diego police said.

The sergeant went outside to see what he had left and found the medal. He brought it inside for safe keeping.

The Purple Heart, which is one of the best known and most respected combat decorations, is awarded to U.S. service members who are wounded in war and posthumously given to family members of those killed in action or who died of wounds received in battle. It has an image of George Washington on the front and the words "For Military Merit" on the back.

The medal in question has no identifiable markings but according to the American War Library, it is only in rare cases that the medals are officially engraved with the recipient's name.

Officers believe that whoever left the medal was giving it in a gesture of respect to De Guzman and the sacrifice he made.

If the person who left the medal can be identified, officers will try to contact him to hear the story about the medal, if he is willing to tell it. Otherwise, the donor will just remain anonymous.

Other offerings left at the memorial include a St. Michael pendant, the Patron Saint of Police, and also a note from the Archie Buggs family. Buggs was an SDPD officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1978. “The Buggs family feels your pain,” the note read.

Drawings from children are set among the dozens of bouquets, some of which were tied in blue ribbons.

One note that was written and signed by an 8-year-old read, “I am sorry your dad died but he is still with you. He is in heaven looking over you. I think your dad was really brave and strong and protecting us all from the bad guys.”

Pam Grace from Santee stopped by on Tuesday morning along with a flag that another mourner helped her carefully fold military style.

She said that she flew the Stars and Stripes at the procession for fallen Navy SEAL Charles Keating. “So now it’s going to another hero,” said Grace.

Police said the Purple Heart will be given to the family along with all the many other items that have been left as a tribute to their fallen officer.

Copyright 2016 The San Diego Union-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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