The call came in at 6:12 p.m.
“Two officers have been shot,” the voice on the other line said. “One may have died. We need you here.”
Sgt. Darin Ryburn — who at the time was a Burbank police detective, police union president and father of two — rushed to the scene of the crime on Nov. 15, 2003.
It was the worst day of his career, the day one of his own, Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka, was killed in the line of duty.
One of the best days, however, came on Thanksgiving morning two weeks later, when Ryburn went to the homes of Pavelka’s mom and dad to deliver news that the police had arrested their son’s killer.
“I consider them part of my family,” he said, as he reflected on his 28-year career in law enforcement.
Ryburn, a third-generation police officer and avid Dodgers fan, recently announced plans to retire and work in private security. He’ll be retiring on Aug. 28, coincidentally the same day his father retired 51 years ago. Friday will be his last day with the city.
As a new recruit in 1986, Ryburn remembered being in the office of a superior, who kicked his feet up on his desk and said, “Kid, this is an E ticket ride,” he recalled. “He was right. It has been a roller coaster.”
To this day, Ryburn keeps Pavelka’s memory alive by helping award an annual scholarship in his name to six local high school students.
During his career, Ryburn has worked in the patrol, juvenile and property crimes bureaus before moving into media relations three years ago.
As public information officer for the last three years, Ryburn has been the face of the department, overseeing community events such as National Night Out and the community academy program, as well as spearheading the department’s website redesign and social media presence.
It’s something he got used to earlier in his career when he was the department’s first community resource officer in 2000.
“He just really wanted to help people,” said his mother, Dorothy Ryburn, of his career choice. “He’s done a great job representing Burbank to the public.”
Ryburn remembers being principal for a day at William McKinley Elementary School in 2002, where he played dodge ball with and read to students.
He remembers when his father pinned his sergeant’s badge on him during his promotion ceremony two years later. “That was a huge moment for me, he was so proud of me,” Ryburn recalled.
In collaboration with Burbank schools, he also planned an annual bicycle ride in Johnny Carson Park during Red Ribbon Week.
“Seeing and doing all those events I think made me realize how important it is to interact with the community,” Ryburn said.
As a police officer, he has also come face to face with tragedy. In 1994, he responded to a call where a 7-year-old boy fell into a pool and drowned. Ryburn’s daughter was the same age at the time. When he got home late that night, he went straight to her room.
“I went in there and woke her up and gave her a big hug,” Ryburn recalled. “You just realize how precious life is, and you try and protect as many people as you can.”