Hundreds of uniformed public safety personnel streamed into Adventure Christian Church on Monday to pay their final respects to fallen Galt Police Officer Kevin Andrew Tonn. They publicly remembered a man who had dedicated his life to serving others at a young age.
The 35-year-old was fatally shot in the line of duty a week ago today, when he approached Humphrey Gascon II to ask him about a burglary in the area of F and 2nd streets in Galt. After firing one round at Tonn, Gascon took his own life, Galt police said.
“Giving one’s life to protect others is never a tragedy. Kevin knew that ... and believed in that until his last breath,” said Jarrett Tonn, cousin and fellow Galt police officer.
That was the sentiment throughout the two-hour funeral service, attended by state dignitaries including Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris. As speaker after speaker took to the podium to talk about Tonn, honor guard members, two by two, quietly rotated to stand guard over Tonn’s flag-draped casket.
Chaplain Tim Stevenson spoke of how hard it is to make sense of the death.
“Someone was going to get killed that day. Kevin gave his life for someone else,” he said. “No greater love than this, one who lays down his life for his friends — or his community.”
Galt Mayor Marylou Powers spoke about how much the community loved Tonn, and noted that the greatest day was in June 2009 when he took his oath to serve Galt.
She also addressed his parents, Maryann and Will Tonn.
“As a parent, I cannot imagine what (you) are going through,” she said. “I do know you raised a very wonderful young man.”
Several spoke directly to the police officers and firefighters in the audience, thanking them for all that they do.
“The public is overwhelmingly aware of the value of your service and sacrifice,” retired Sheriff Jon McGinness said, adding that he spoke at Tonn’s police academy graduation. “He was an outstanding recruit. As a fellow classmate said, ‘Recruit Tonn has it all.’”
Shortly after graduation, Tonn went to work for Galt. He had worked as a firefighter after serving in the U.S. Army and came back to California to join the Sacramento Sheriff’s Academy.
“He wanted to be a Galt officer worse than anything, which is amazing because agencies all around us pay better and have better benefits,” said retired Galt Police Chief Loren Cattolico, who hired Tonn. Cattolico now lives in the Bay Area. When he heard the news, he said he began to tick off in his head the names of officers and their families, wondering who it was. Then he learned it was Tonn.
“I haven’t cried that hard in a long time,” Cattolico said.
He shared a letter written by an unidentified Galt resident who thanked Tonn in light of being arrested for driving under the influence.
“You were most cool,” he wrote. “You treated me like a man.”
Cattolico said the writer’s sentiment summed up the kind of officer Tonn was. He used humor to diffuse situations, especially when it came to Galt’s youths.
“He served the community with honesty, integrity and unwavering commitment,” Cattolico said.
After current Chief William Bowen met Tonn, he expanded the department’s K-9 unit from one to two officers partly due to Tonn’s desire to be a K-9 officer. The two shared a military background, though from two different branches, which is partly why — just like a wounded soldier on the battlefield — Bowen insisted following the shooting that Tonn never be left alone, including at the coroner’s office.
“I could spend all day talking about his quick wit and his smile,” Bowen said, breaking down during stories about how proud Tonn was to distribute his trading card or how he had just taught his police dog, Yaro, to open the patrol car and get in on his own.
“We know that Kevin loved being a cop and chasing the bad guys,” he said.
Jarrett Tonn agreed. The two always saw each other more as brothers than cousins, and since Kevin moved back to California from New York, the two had been inseparable, seeing each other almost daily. They spent a lot of time laughing at things only they would find funny, Jarrett Tonn said.
“He was one of the best police officers I ever knew,” he said.
He gave a lot of credit to his aunt and uncle, Kevin’s parents. On more than one occasion, Will Tonn has asked what kind of counseling support Gascon’s family will receive, according to Jarrett.
“That’s the kind of people they are,” he said, adding that he hoped those who had attended Monday’s service carry a similar badge of honor so that no life is lost in vain. “Follow the example of the Lord who came not to be served, but to serve.”
Following the service, hundreds of vehicles — including police cruisers from all over California and even Reno, Nev. — participated in the 16-mile procession to East Lawn Mortuary in Sacramento for a graveside service.
Before the casket was unloaded, Yaro sat at attention alongside the white hearse carrying his partner’s body. He whimpered during “Taps” as other fellow K-9 officers barked at the ceremony’s 21-gun salute.
Although it was only 59 degrees, many of those in full uniform found themselves seeking a respite from the sun under the cemetery’s few trees.
Tonn was laid to rest with full military honors, including the ceremonial Riderless Horse and flyover of five helicopters with one parting ways in the sky.
He was also honored with the United States Honor Flag, first displayed at Ground Zero shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. It has traveled an estimated 5 million miles across the country since then to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
The flag, closely monitored by Homeland Security using GPS, was received at Sacramento International Airport on Sunday. After a brief ceremony, it was driven by escort to the cemetery and then again to Tonn’s service.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.