CHP officer reflects on loss of a fellow officer

September 7, 2012 8:15:39 PM PDT
It's been a tragic week for California Highway Patrol officers with the death of one of their own -- Officer Kenyon Youngstrom was killed in a shootout Tuesday on Interstate 680 in Alamo. The gunman was shot to death by another officer. One veteran CHP officer spoke to ABC7 News about his personal reflections coming out of the tragedy.

The outpouring of sadness and support from the public just keeps growing at the CHP field office where Youngstrom worked.

I think it underscores in their minds, 'Wow, these individuals are human beings just like me, they're connected to family, they're connected to friends,'" Officer Sam Morgan said.

Morgan has been with the CHP some 30 years. It's not the first time he's heard that radio call -- 11-99, officer down.

Every time, it's the same reaction.

"Your mind starts racing, sometimes your heart sinks," he said.

And when that officer dies...

"Each one, a piece of you goes with that individual," Morgan said. "There's never a point where you're over that. You just learn how to manage it. Sometimes there are thoughts of anger, there are thoughts of sadness, bewilderment, on and on the emotions go."

There are also personal reflections.

Morgan is married with two children.

"Reflections like, what if it was me and how would my wife and children handle it? How would my family respond," Morgan said. "You're brought to death into sharper focus with your own mortality. You begin to see just how risky the job can be sometimes."

It's not something Morgan dwells on, but always in the back of his mind are the potential dangers of each traffic stop, no matter how small the infraction.

"Are they friend? Are they foe? Are they going to yield to the authority of the officer peacefully? Am I going to have to get into a confrontation, a physical confrontation with this individual," he said.

"Most of the calls we respond to we go home without incident. We go home without injury, but the call always could be that one call that can pretty be your last call."


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