LEON VALLEY, Texas - The title of the movie “Cannonball Run,” an early '80s comedy about a cross-country race, has taken on a much more somber meaning for three sergeants with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office in California who are on a Cannonball Run Memorial trip to honor fallen officers.
They embarked on the cross-country trip Thursday, starting from the West Coast, and are going to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. They stopped briefly Friday at the Leon Valley Police Department's headquarters.
They are bringing law enforcement patches and insignias from the communities that lost officers this year.
Sgt. John Bannes said they’re also stopping along the way “to generate awareness of the vast number of officers that have been murdered this year.” He said 64 officers died in the line of duty, the latest being the second of two officers killed Wednesday in Americus, Georgia. The officers were responding to a domestic violence call.
Bannes said he’d already heard about San Antonio Police Detective Benjamin Marconi being shot to death in his patrol car outside Public Safety Headquarters the weekend before Thanksgiving.
He said he was “absolutely shocked.”
Bannes and Leon Valley police Chief Joseph Salvaggio agree society has changed dramatically.
“The senseless targeting of police officers is targeting society as a whole,” Salvaggio said.
“I believe the percentage increase was 69 percent in a single year. That’s completely off the hook. It’s out of control," Bannes said.
To help stop the violence, Salvaggio urges the public to be law enforcement’s eyes and ears and report potentially volatile situations that could endanger them and the community.
“The public needs to continue to rise up and support the officers. It really makes the officers feel what they’re doing is not in vain," Salvaggio said.
Just over a year ago, San Bernardino was the scene of one of the nation’s most violent mass killings. A husband and wife, who claimed to be inspired by the Islamic State group, killed 14 and injured 21 others at a holiday party. What followed was a fierce gun battle with law enforcement.
Bannes said the officers who were wounded in the incident have since recovered and so have the people of San Bernardino. He said they “really, really pulled together in a strong way. Very solid. Cannot be broken.”
As part of the awareness they hope to bring to the nation, Bannes said they also have set up a GoFundMe account to benefit the families of fallen officers.
Salvaggio said San Antonio luckily has the 100 Club that helps meet those needs locally, unlike other communities across the country.
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