It was a sad night in Walnut Creek after a family man and dedicated CHP officer died in the line of duty Wednesday night at John Muir Medical Center. Doctors did not expect Officer Kenyon Youngstrom to survive after a bullet to his head severed his spinal cord. He was on life support for a day and a half. Now, his organs will now be donated.
"This has been a life-altering tragedy for the family, and certainly a tragedy that's affected us all deeply to the core," said Martinez CHP Commander Capt. Jonnie Fenner.
CHP officers came and went in a constant stream through the emergency room at John Muir Medical Center. One hour after his death a CHP helicopter circled the hospital flashing its lights in what appeared to be a salute to the fallen officer.
"Officer Youngstrom's family wanted to once again express their deepest gratitude to his law enforcement family, first responders, medical staff, members of the public -- you've been amazing," said Fenner. "I think it's really important that you guys know he absolutely loved his job and the service that he gave to all of us and all of you in the community...truly."
A vigil was also held in Cordelia. Members of the community gathered at an elementary school hoping for him to recover. Everyone found out about the officer's passing when a CHP captain made the announcement. The group then prayed together.
Earlier on Wednesday authorities released more information about what went down just moments before the gunfire.
It was 8:20 a.m., the tail end of the commute hour on Highway 680. Youngstrom, a seven-year veteran of the force, and his beat partner responded in separate cars to a traffic accident near Rudgear Road.
"He went to that location and was not able to locate an accident scene. Therefore, he cleared that detail," Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Jimmy Lee said during a Wednesday morning press conference.
The two officers then agreed to meet a short distance up the freeway to handle a dead deer which was lying on the southbound lanes of 680. "As he was on the way to that location, his beat partner told him he was going to conduct a traffic stop on a green Jeep Wrangler for having an obstructed license plate," Lee said. The driver of the Jeep was 36-year-old Christopher Lacy. Lee would not say how the license plate was obstructed.
Youngstrom had just pulled up to the shoulder. He got out of his car. "Officer Youngstrom apparently motions or directs this Jeep to pull in behind his vehicle. The second officer initiates a traffic stop and ends up behind the Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep is now sandwiched between the two patrol cars. Youngstrom goes to the driver's side of the Jeep.
The dashboard camera on his partner's car recorded what happened next. "Officer Youngstrom and Lacy had a short conversation and then without any warning, Lacy pulled out a gun and shot Officer Youngstrom in the head. His partner, who was approaching from the rear, heard the gunshot, saw his partner go down. He drew his own service weapon and shot at the Jeep striking Lacy critically," Lee said.
Both Youngstrom and Lacy were taken to John Muir Medical Center. Lacy died Tuesday afternoon. Youngstrom was taken off life support and died Wednesday evening.
Contra Costa County sheriff's deputies found multiple computers and drives at Lacy's home in Corning. They are now analyzing that material. Investigators also discovered a loaded semi-automatic handgun in his Jeep along with two loaded magazines and additional ammunition. They also found a knife.
Lacy graduated from San Francisco State University with a master's degree in 2005. His only criminal history appears to be a DUI arrest in Marin County in 2006. Investigators hope to learn more about Lacy by talking to his father.
A fund has been set up to Youngstrom's surviving wife and four children. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch in the Bay Area and just mention his name to a teller and ask that funds be contributed to the trust account in his name.
Vic Lee and Leslie Brinkley contributed to this report.