BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — July 25th is a day local law enforcement will never forget. One year ago, Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Phillip Campas was shot and killed when responding to a hostage situation in Wasco. A year later, Campas’s name is now engraved in the KCSO Memorial, and his memory lives on.
Deputy Phillip Campas died a hero. He was attempting to save a mother and her children when their father was holding them hostage in Wasco. But the situation ended with the suspect dead, as well as three victims in the Rameriez family and Deputy Campas.
"How do you measure right -- a legacy. Can it be measured in a year? The answer is no,” said Sgt. Dustin Contreras with the KCSO Honor Guard.
On July 25, 2021, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, the SWAT team, and the California Highway Patrol responded to Poplar Avenue and 1st Street in Wasco for a domestic violence situation. When law enforcement arrived the suspect, Jose Manuel Ramirez began shooting.
Deputies outside the house called out to the suspect in English and Spanish in an attempt for a peaceful surrender. However, they begin closing in still believing there were people in danger inside. Ramirez began shooting at them. That’s when two deputies including Campas were shot.
Not long after the shooting, Deputy Phillip Campas was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Sgt. Contreras, who worked with Deputy Campas, reflected on when they laid him to rest.
“Unfortunately, as the honor guard, we have to do funerals for line of duty deaths and in this case, we had to bury one of our own honor guard members, which was very traumatic for the team. But along the year, ultimately, we know we have to honor him and keep his legacy going.”
Sgt. Contreras says giving back to his community was important for Campas regardless of the case.
"Giving service and giving life during that service is something he knew the risk of and that we all knew the risk of. But he was not only that, he was a son, he was a father to his children and a husband, and he did that well."
A year later Sgt. Contreras says Campas’ legacy will not be forgotten.
“We just want the community to know that he was one of them and he was one of our best in our agency and to continue to remember all of our officers that have died in the line of duty."
Campas’ name is now engraved on the KCSO Fallen Deputy Memorial and on the National Memorial in Washington, D.C. Soon, a local highway may also bear his name. All tributes one of his law enforcement brothers say is fitting for the hero he was.
“He was that - what you would think the all-American person," said Sgt. Contreras. "He was a football star in high school, served his country during wartime, and then came back and gave back to his community as a law enforcement officer and cared about his community and small communities.”
Campas was only 35 years old when he was shot and killed.
Last year, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said at Campas' funeral that he was the best of the best.
“This man did more in 35 years than most of us will ever do in a lifetime and he did everything exceptionally well. He did it better than anybody else.”
Campas was a member of the SWAT team, a member of the honor guard, a patrol deputy, and a recruit training officer. He also served as a U.S. Marine sergeant in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Contreras says Campas was an all-around leader.
“To think about something he would do just pushes me and motivates me as an individual further. But someone that doesn’t have that connection with him, Phil was able to emulate that type of leadership just by his actions.”
“We’ve honored Deputy Campas over the past year," continued Sgt. Contreras. "We’ve had our memorials in May. It was an annual memorial that we do every year but this year was dedicated to Deputy Campas."
Senator Shannon Grove also introduced a senate resolution that if passed would name the intersection of Highway 65 and Highway 99 the Deputy Phillip Campas Interchange.
And Rep. Kevin McCarthy issued the following statement: "Our law enforcement officers consistently put their lives on the line. This is a notion that can be very easy for us to forget in our own day-to-day lives, but it’s a solemn reality for our officers and their loved ones. A year ago today, our community faced this devastating reality when we lost one of our own - Deputy Sheriff Phillip Campas. Though Deputy Campas is no longer with us, his spirit lives on with those who knew him, including his colleagues, friends, and wonderful family. Gone, but not forgotten – Phillip and his family remain in all of our prayers."
Recently the community came together for a candlelight vigil to celebrate Campas’ life.
“It’s a beautiful thing when the community does that and we push for them to continue to do these things," said Sgt. Contreras. "It's something that we will continue to work and push on and do our duty, but the community is also involved in remembering Phil because he belonged to them just like he belonged to the agency.”
And that sentiment is also being shared in a statement released Monday by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office from Campas’ wife Christina, reading in part: “A year ago today, July 25th, 2021, my husband Phillip was killed in the line of duty. That day I lost my best friend and my children lost their father. The last year has brought the kids and me many challenges but our support system has never faltered. We owe everything to them."
She added: “Every card, message, gift, and donation the last year did not go unnoticed and we are forever grateful. I wish I could hug every one of you. It is because of this community along with friends and family that Phillip's legacy will live on. Phillip left such a mark on everyone he knew and we are so proud. We love and miss him so much but know his name will never be forgotten.”
As the community reflects on the loss of Deputy Campas 23ABC took an in-depth look at the number of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty so far this year.
According to the site known as the Officer Down Memorial Page which tracks data on law enforcement deaths and also raises funds for families of those lost, there have been 145 "line of duty deaths" nationwide so far this year. That's a decrease of 42 percent compared to last year, the year Deputy Campas was killed. In California there was ten line of duty deaths so far this year, none from Kern County.
Most of the officers who died in California this year were killed by gunfire.
Sgt. Contreras also says the support has not gone unnoticed.
“Everything that the community has done on their own shows that it was a loss for them too for Phil to pass away. We can’t thank the community enough for all the stuff that they’ve done for Phil's family for the sheriff’s office for the entire community.”
The bill SCR 75 for the interchange was first introduced in February of this year. It has now passed the senate and the assembly and is now heading to the governor for final approval.
And while Deputy Campas is gone physically he won’t be forgotten.