BURBANK — The memory of Matthew Pavelka lived on in Burbank on Thursday morning as hundreds of police officers, city officials and residents paid tribute to the Burbank Police officer who was killed in the line of duty four years ago.
The memoriam was part of the colors run, in which about 100 cadets from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Academy, together with members of the Burbank police and fire departments, and the Los Angeles Police Department, ran in formation with their class flag flown at the front of the procession.
The colors run happens every year and signifies the point in training where the class is recognized as the senior recruit class, Burbank Sgt. Travis Irving said.
“It’s been going on for years and years,” he said.
“The last couple of years, they’ve been doing it in memory of fallen officers. In this class, we have two recruits who are related to Matt, so they elected to do it honor of him.”
As officers lined up on Third Street, for the first stop on the 2.5-mile run, a procession of city and county officials spoke about Pavelka and his enduring legacy.
“In seven days it will be four years since Matthew Pavelka was shot 14 times at the Ramada Inn,” Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr said. “It was truly a shocking incident and one that won’t be forgotten by any of us.”
As Stehr focused on the past, he talked about the present and the pending trial of the man who allegedly shot Pavelka in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn on North San Fernando Boulevard on Nov. 15, 2003.
“We are still anxiously awaiting the prosecution of David Garcia, who sits in L.A. County jail,” he said.
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, whose office is overseeing the prosecution, assured Stehr and others that Garcia’s case has not been forgotten.
“David Garcia has not met his justice yet, but he will,” he said. “My promise to the young officers and deputies here is that whenever and wherever any of you are struck down, we will never forget.”
The multitude of departments that attended the event was reminiscent of the arrest of Garcia and the ensuing arrests of hundreds of gang members at the hands of local, state and federal authorities after Pavelka’s death, Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams said.
“This sends a very strong message that we are united as departments and spare no expense to go after anyone who goes after police officers,” Adams said.
“His memory will live on as we are united, and we continue to send that message that we are cooperating to bring down gangs.”
With a bang, officers, escorted by blaring police motorcycles and slow-moving fire trucks, ran about two miles to the Ramada Inn where a moment of silence and the unfurling of a memorial flag afforded Pavelka’s father and girlfriend the opportunity to reflect on their loss.
“It means a great deal to me that young officers just starting out take the time to honor a fallen officer like Matthew,” Michael Pavelka said. “That’s huge to me because that sets a standard in their lives that they’re taking on a career that is extremely dangerous.
“Obviously, I wish he was still alive today, but I think the silver lining may be the gang task force to protect other officers from the threat.”
Jessica DiChristina, Matthew Pavelka’s girlfriend, was honored by the number of people at the event.
“It fills my heart with so much love for everybody that’s here today,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Nobody’s forgotten him, and that’s so important because I’ll never forget him.
“This is a celebration of his life.”