BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Vigils and memorials have been taking place across the country to honor those who have lost their lives in the line of duty and Bakersfield joined the nation in prayer.
At the Liberty Bell several gathered lighting candle after candle to pray for the first responders who have fallen.
Silence swept across the vigil as Lead Organizer Pastor Angelo Frazier called for a moment of silence as each gatherer had their reason for being there.
“I felt obligated to come out and support our men and women in service you know especially after all of the things they’ve been going through,” said Shannon Zimmerman.
For vigil goer, Shannon Zimmerman, this vigil was personal.
“They’re our heroes, they’re the ones who protect us when we need someone to call, and they deserve our respect and when we lose some of those officers it’s just heartbreaking.”
Cody Bowling shared the same sentiment with Zimmerman.
“I have had very close friends who have served, and they have suffered and, in some cases, paid the ultimate price. I see the effect that it has not only on our community but on their families, their children, and it’s hard to put into words,” said Bowling.
Bakersfield Police Department Lieutenant Ryan Kroeker said he was humbled that so many showed up to pray for officers and first responders because he too felt the pang of losing comrades.
“Phillip Campas passed away he was shot and killed here in kern county on a swat operation, David Nelson one of ours. The sheriff's department has had several and those are right here close to home,'' said Lieutenant Kroeker.
Kroeker said he understands that some people don’t care for law enforcement, and they too can make mistakes.
“Majority of time officers are kind, compassionate and empathetic. They’re hardworking, they want to do a good job, they want to step in front of bullets for people, they want to be the call when someone is on their worst day because they want to help. That’s why they get in this profession, and I think the more that we can understand that I think that's going to hopefully mend a lot of relationships and bring community and police closer together.”
23ABC wanted to know how many law enforcement officers and firefighters have died in the line of duty this year and in recent years.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 31 officers have died in the line of duty across the U.S. this year. In 2021, 18 officers lost their lives while on the job and, 1,464 members of law enforcement have died in the line of duty in the last five years.
The memorial also follows the deaths of four firefighters across the country this and last week, including one here in California.
A Stockton fire captain, Max Fortuna, was shot and killed while responding to a dumpster fire early Monday morning. Last Monday, three Baltimore firefighters lost their lives after they were trapped in a burning building. They were identified as Lt. Paul Butrim, Kelsey Sadler and Kenny Lacayo. A fourth firefighter was hospitalized but has since been released.
The U.S. Fire Administration said so far, 13 firefighters have lost their lives in 2022. In 2021, the agency says 141 responders were killed while responding to calls. That's up from 102 in 2020, 2019 saw the lowest recorded deaths in recent years at 62.