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Officers honor one of their own

Officers honor one of their own
Family members of Laguna Beach officer Jon Coutchie arrive to McCormick & Son mortuary before a motorcade procession on Tuesday.
(Don Leach, Coastline Pilot)

About 100 officers lined Laguna Canyon Road on Tuesday to honor a Laguna Beach police officer who died in a motorcycle accident over the weekend, the first on-duty death in 60 years.

Officers in uniform, both sworn and civilian, lined the entrance to McCormick & Son Mortuary, where a motorcade carried the body of Jon Coutchie, a 41-year-old Laguna Beach motorcycle officer killed Saturday night.

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Laguna police Capt. Darin Lenyi directed the officers, including California Highway Patrol personnel, who stood at attention for Coutchie’s family and then for Jon.

A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” as about 10 motorcycle officers drove onto the mortuary property, circled the courtyard and waited for Coutchie’s casket to arrive.

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The procession began at the Orange County coroner’s office in Santa Ana and traveled south along the 5 Freeway and onto Laguna Canyon Road, a police news release said.

Eight Laguna Beach firefighters stood atop a fire engine parked across Laguna Canyon Road from the mortuary for the procession.

Downtown flags were lowered to half-staff.

The outpouring of support spread throughout the law enforcement community, Laguna Beach Capt. Jason Kravetz said in an email announcing the motorcade.

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“We had planned on doing this ourselves, but word spread to other law enforcement officers, who will now be showing up to participate,” Kravetz said earlier Tuesday. “It has truly been an emotional experience.”

Officers carried the casket, draped in an American flag, from the hearse into the mortuary followed by Coutchie’s family.

The motorcade is a way to honor an officer killed in the line of duty, Lenyi said.

“This is our way to welcome Jon home,” Kravetz said during the procession.

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Coutchie was riding his motorcycle north on South Coast Highway at 11:44 p.m. when he hit the side of a pickup trying to make a left turn onto Cleo Street, according to the CHP, which is investigating the collision.

Coutchie, who had been a Laguna officer for four years, died at the scene. The last on-duty officer death occurred in 1953, police said.

Colleagues spoke about Coutchie’s generosity and fun-loving nature.

“He was someone you would want as a head coach if you’re playing on a team together,” said Larry Wohrman, a fleet coordinator who maintains the department’s motorcycles. “He was a positive, upbeat guy who never had a negative thing to say about anyone.

“He was always willing to help out and make anyone better. He was always bringing something new to try, usually a food item.”

Larry Bammer, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn., joined Coutchie for a patrol shift a few weeks ago and witnessed his generosity.

“We just finished a traffic stop and went to a convenience store in town for a break,” Bammer said. “Jon goes inside and buys a dozen packages of M&M;'s — he loved M&M;'s — and brought them out to all of us. He was a very caring guy.”

A public memorial is set for 11 a.m. Friday at Mariner’s Church, 5001 Newport Coast Drive in Irvine, Kravetz said.

A Laguna Beach resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, donated a private jet to fly Coutchie to Yuma, Ariz., where he will be buried next to his grandfather on Saturday, Kravetz said.

Coutchie served with the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2007, police said.

He is survived by his mother, father, brother, stepsister and girlfriend, according to a Laguna Beach police news release that did not include names.

The Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs is collecting donations on behalf of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn. for the family’s expenses.

Donations are tax deductible through the AOCDS Memorial Fund. Donations can be made online at https://www.aocds.org or by check payable to AOCDS Memorial Fund, 1314 West Fifth St., Suite A, Santa Ana, Calif. 92703.

Reference Laguna Beach police officer Jon Coutchie in the memo section of your check.


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