BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Three days after a mass murder ripped apart two families — the extended Ramirez family of Wasco and the greater family of local law enforcement — Kern County continues to reel and to pay tribute to the four slain individuals, one of them a Sheriff’s SWAT deputy.
Almost from the moment word got out that Jose Manuel Ramirez Jr. of Wasco had gunned down his wife, two of his three sons and one of the deputies who attempted to rescue anyone who might be held inside the family home, the tributes for Deputy Phillip Campas have poured in.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, accustomed to reaching out to help in the community, said his agency is now the one in need of support now.
“This community is made up of people that 99 percent are 100 percent behind their law enforcement agencies,” he said at a Tuesday press conference, “and we greatly appreciate that because now is when we need it.”
From a billboard bearing Deputy Campas’s badge number at 24th and L streets in downtown Bakersfield to American flags at half-staff across the county and the state — Varner Brothers Waste Disposal in Oildale, here at the Kern County Sheriff’s Substation in Wasco, and the State Capitol to name three, Kern County was in mourning.
Blue lights lit up the night in silent, poignant tributes to Deputy Campas — blue, for the thin blue line of law enforcement — at government buildings and other places.
A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday night in Wasco to remember Deputy Campas, a Marine Corps veteran and youth program volunteer, as well as Viviana Ramirez, her 17-year-old son Angel and her 24-year-old son Jose Ramirez III, slain by their 41-year-old father.
A second prayer vigil was held Tuesday in Bakersfield.
Those observances took place in the hours that followed one especially moving event — a procession of law enforcement officers streaming from Kern Medical to Greenlawn Cemetery Northeast, accompanying the Hearse bearing Deputy Campas’s body. Clusters of civilian mourners stood along the route.
And, amid the tears, calls for a greater focus on the tragedy of domestic violence, which reared its head on a quiet residential street in Wasco Sunday afternoon in the worst way possible.
“One thing I recognize,” said Ilene Parra of the Alliance Against Family Violence, “is working with victims of domestic violence, sometimes we can lose hope, not only as a victim but as a worker, And I want to remind you — don’t lose that hope.”
There were calls as well from the family of the shooter for a greater understanding of mental illness, still stigmatized but very real across society.
The tributes will continue, quietly for the Ramirez family, very publicly for the family and colleagues of Phillip Campas, the first Sheriff’s deputy to die from gunfire in the line of duty in 32 years.
Because this is not just a tragedy for the loved ones of those lost to this horrific event, it’s a tragedy for the entire community — as these tributes reflect.
More tributes are yet to come — including another candlelight vigil in Wasco set for Friday.. Details on services for the victims have not been announced.