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Anonymous mourner leaves Purple Heart at tribute to fallen San Diego police

A Purple Heart was among items left at a memorial in downtown San Diego honoring slain police Officer Jonathan De Guzman.
A Purple Heart was among items left at a memorial in downtown San Diego honoring slain police Officer Jonathan De Guzman.
(Debbi Baker / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Police are hoping to find the person who placed a Purple Heart at a memorial to fallen officers, where candles have burned for days in honor of Jonathan “JD” De Guzman.

The medal, which officials believe to be authentic, was left Saturday morning at the granite monument that bears the names of 32 officers who have died in the line of duty. Soon, De Guzman’s name will be inscribed with them.

The 16-year-veteran was killed and his partner, Wade Irwin, was wounded Thursday night during an incident that Chief Shelley Zimmerman said began as a traffic stop.

A watch commander on duty at the downtown memorial said he saw a man get out of a car Saturday and walk up to the memorial before placing something next to a folded flag, San Diego police said.

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The sergeant went over to see what had been left and found the medal. He brought it inside for safekeeping.

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The Purple Heart, one of the best known and most revered combat decorations, is awarded to U.S. service members who are wounded in war and given posthumously to family members of those killed in action or who died of wounds received in battle. It has an image of George Washington on the front and the words “For Military Merit” on the back.

The medal in question has no identifiable markings; according to the American War Library, only in rare cases are the medals officially engraved with the recipient’s name.

Officers believe the medal was placed at the memorial in a gesture of respect to De Guzman and the sacrifice he made. If the person who left it can be identified, officers will try to contact him to hear the story about the medal. Otherwise, he will just remain anonymous.

Other offerings left at the memorial include a pendant of St. Michael — the patron saint of police — and a note from the Archie Buggs family. Buggs was a San Diego officer killed in the line of duty in 1978. “The Buggs family feels your pain,” the note read.

Drawings from children are set among the dozens of bouquets, some of which are tied in blue ribbons.

One note written by an 8-year-old read, “I am sorry your dad died but he is still with you. He is in heaven looking over you. I think your dad was really brave and strong and protecting us all from the bad guys.”

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Pam Grace stopped by Tuesday morning with an American flag that another mourner helped her carefully fold, military style.

She said that she flew the flag at the procession for fallen Navy SEAL Charles Keating, who was killed in Iraq last spring. “So now it’s going to another hero,” Grace said.

Police said the Purple Heart will be given to De Guzman’s family, along with other items that have been left as a tribute to him.

debbi.baker@sduniontribune.com

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Baker writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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