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Chief of Police James Leonard Speer | Calipatria Police Department, California Calipatria Police Department, California

Chief of Police

James Leonard Speer

Calipatria Police Department, California

End of Watch: Friday, April 10, 1998

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 65

Tour: 40 years

Badge # 700

Cause: Gunfire

Incident Date: 4/10/1998

Weapon: Officer's handgun

Suspect: Sentenced to death

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Chief of Police James Speer was shot and killed after responding to a call at an equipment yard on the outskirts of Calipatria, a tiny town in Imperial County. Chief of Police Speer was found dead along with the mother of the suspect. The suspect had managed to gain control of Chief Speer's weapon and shot him in the chest.

The man fled across the United States - Mexico border where he was apprehended by Mexican authorities. He was returned to the United States where he was convicted of both murders and sentenced to death.

Chief Speer had served as chief of the Calipatria Police Department for 10 years and had previously served with the Brawley Police Department, Calexico Police Department, and Imperial County Sheriff's Department. He had a total of 40 years of law enforcement service. He is survived by his wife, daughter, and grandchildren.

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Leonard was truly one of a kind. He was the Sheriff of Imperial County, then Chief of Calexico Police Department and then, because of his true passion for law-enforcement, he became just a police officer for Brawley Police Department for several years before finally becoming the Calipatria Chief. I don't say "just" in any disparaging way, on the contrary, I said that to illustrate his great passion, humility, and true leadership at all supervision levels. Leonard may have been a "new" police officer in Brawley, but he was certainly the informal leader. Despite being the Sheriff of Imperial County and holding a high position, as a patrol officer he never complained, never spoke poorly of anyone and was a great example for all of us young officers.

I think of Leonard often. When I was a very young snot-nosed officer, Leonard was there to take me under his wing and to teach me just how to be a cop, and more importantly a man. I still remember his great smile and sense of humor. After I left to another department, we stayed in touch but as things happen, I hadn't talk to him in a number of years before he was killed. His humility is something that will always stand out. Despite being the "old guy" he made just as many arrests as us young officers but there was a difference. He had great empathy for people. For example, after he handcuffed and processed a prisoner he would many times shake their hand and show them concern as he led them to jail.

It's funny how things become: I just realized that "old guy" is about my age now. It's been 30 years already; however, his memory is just as vivid. He was a wonderful man and I will always miss him.

Dave Moss, Captain
San Diego Sheriff's Department
November 25, 2014

 

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