Author Archive

Police Officer Greggory Casillas

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Memorial

Police Officer Greggory Casillas

Pomona Police Department, California End of Watch: Friday, March 9, 2018

Biographical Info

  • Age: 30
  • Tour: 6 months
  • Badge: #16
  • Incident Details

    • Cause Gunfire
    • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
    • Offender Charged with murder
    Police Officer Gregg Casillas was shot and killed as he attempted to arrest a man in the 1400 block of South Palomares Street following a vehicle pursuit. The vehicle fled after officers attempted to stop it for reckless driving. The driver crashed into another vehicle before fleeing on foot and entering an apartment. As Officer Casillas and another officer attempted to make contact with the man he fired through the apartment door, striking both officers. The officers were both transported to a local hospital where Officer Casillas succumbed to his wounds. The man surrendered after remaining barricaded inside his home for more than 15 hours. He was charged with Officer Casillas’ murder as well as several counts of attempted murder of a peace officer. Officer Casillas had served with the Pomona Police Department for six months and was still in field training at the time of the incident. He had been employed as a civilian with the agency for three years before entering the police academy. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Deputy Sheriff Steven Belanger

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Memorial

Deputy Sheriff Steven Belanger

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, California End of Watch: Tuesday, February 6, 2018 Biographical Info Age: 52 Tour: 7 years Badge: # Incident Details Cause Gunfire Incident Date Saturday, December 10, 1994 Weapon Handgun Offender Committed suicide Deputy Sheriff Steve Belanger succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained on December 10th, 1994, when he was ambushed while conducting a traffic stop in the 18400 block of La Guardia Street in Rowland Heights. He had recognized the driver of the vehicle as being wanted for a previous assault. As he searched the two occupants of the car, one of the man’s friends rode up behind Deputy Belanger on a skateboard and shot him in the back of the head. The man fled the scene and committed suicide about one hour later. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet from Deputy Belanger’s brain. He remained under constant medical care and confined to a wheelchair until passing away on February 6th, 2018. Deputy Belanger had served with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for seven years. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

Sergeant Alfonso Lopez

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Memorial

Sergeant Alfonso Lopez

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

End of Watch: Thursday, October 24, 2016

sergeant-alfonso-lopez

Biographical Info
Age: 47
Tour: 26 years
Badge: #

Incident Details
Cause: Automobile accident
Incident Date: 10/25/2016

Sergeant Al Lopez suffered a fatal heart attack while responding to assist other deputies who were involved in a high speed pursuit in Compton at approximately 5:20 am.

Shortly after he responded from the station a citizen came into the lobby and advised deputies that a patrol car had crashed at the intersection of Myrrh Street and Willowbrook Avenue and the driver was unresponsive. Deputies responded to location and began performing CPR on on Sergeant Lopez. He was transported St. Francis Medical Center where he passed away.

It is believed that Sergeant Lopez suffered a fatal heart attack prior to his vehicle colliding with a fence at low speeds. The pursuit he was responding to was terminated shortly after it began due to the dangerously high speeds of the fleeing vehicle.

Sergeant Lopez had served with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for 26 years and was assigned to the Compton Station. He is survived by his wife and two adult children.

Officer Lesley Zerebny

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Memorial

Officer Lesley Zerebny

Palm Springs Police Department

End of Watch: Thursday, October 8, 2016

police-officer-lesley-zerebny

Biographical Info
Age: 27
Tour: 1 year, 6 months
Badge: # P524

Incident Details
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 10/8/2016
Weapon: Rifle; AR-15
Suspect: In custody

Police Officer Lesley Zerebny and Police Officer Gil Vega were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call in the 2700 block of Cypress Road shortly after noon.

A family member from the home had gone to a neighbor’s house and and stated that his son was armed and wanted to shoot police officers. Responding officers, including Officer Vega and Officer Zerebny, arrived at the scene several minutes later. The man inside the home opened fire on them as they approached the front door, killing Officer Vega and Officer Zerebny and wounding a third officer.

The man then barricaded himself inside the home for approximately 12 hours. He was taken into custody by members of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team. The subject was an admitted gang member.

Officer Zerebny had served with the Palm Springs Police Department for 18 months. She was survived by her husband, who also serves in law enforcement, and 4-month-old child.

Officer Jose Gilbert ‘Gil’ Vega

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Memorial

Officer Jose ‘Gil’ Vega

Palm Springs Police Department

End of Watch: Saturday, October 8, 2016

vegagilbert

Biographical Info
Age: 62
Tour: 35 years
Badge: # P538

Incident Details
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 10/8/2016
Weapon: Rifle; AR-15
Suspect: Apprehended

Police Officer Gil Vega and Police Officer Lesley Zerebny were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call in the 2700 block of Cypress Road shortly after noon.

A family member from the home had gone to a neighbor’s house and and stated that his son was armed and wanted to shoot police officers. Responding officers, including Officer Vega and Officer Zerebny, arrived at the scene several minutes later. The man inside the home opened fire on them as they approached the front door, killing Officer Vega and Officer Zerebny and wounding a third officer.

The man then barricaded himself inside the home for approximately 12 hours. He was taken into custody by members of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team. The subject was an admitted gang member.

Officer Vega had served with the Palm Springs Police Department for 35 years and was scheduled to retire only two months after his murder. He was working an overtime shift on the day he was murdered. He is survived by his wife and eight children.

Sergeant Steve Owen

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Memorial

Sergeant Steve Owen

Los Angeles County Sheriff Department

End of Watch: Wednesday, October 5, 2016

sergeant-steve-owen

Biographical Info
Age: 53
Tour: 29 years
Badge: #

Incident Details
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 10/5/2016
Weapon: Handgun
Suspect: Apprehended

Sergeant Steve Owen was shot and killed after responding to a burglary in progress call in the 3200 block of West Avenue J-7 in Lancaster, California.

He was checking the rear of the apartment building when the subject emerged and shot him. The other deputy on scene heard the shooting and ran to the rear of the building, where he found Sergeant Owen wounded. As he rendered aid the suspect attempted to steal Sergeant Owen’s patrol car, but but crashed into a second patrol car as the second deputy attempted to stop him.

The man then fled into a nearby home where he took two teenagers hostage for several hours. As a SWAT team entered the apartment the man fled but was quickly apprehended.

Sergeant Owen had served with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for 29 years. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Officer Jonathan ‘JD’ DeGuzman

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Memorial

Police Jonathan ‘JD’ DeGuzman

San Diego Police Department

End of Watch: Thursday, July 28, 2016

police-officer-jd-deguzman

Biographical Info
Age: 43
Tour: 15 years, 9 months
Badge: # 3836

Incident Details
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 7/28/2016
Weapon: Handgun
Suspect: Shot and wounded

Police Officer JD DeGuzman was shot and killed as he and his partner conducted a subject stop near the intersection of Acacia Grove Way and 38th Street at approximately 11:00 pm.

Officer DeGuzman and his partner observed two men walking in the area, but the men split up when they observed the patrol car. Officer DeGuzman’s partner exited the patrol car and approached one of the man. As he asked the man if he lived in the neighborhood the subject suddenly pulled out a handgun and opened fire without saying anything.

The subject shot Officer DeGuzman’s partner once in the neck before shooting Officer DeGuzman five times as he was still sitting in the police car. Officer DeGuzman’s partner was able to return fire and wounded the subject as he fled on foot. The man was found hiding in a nearby ravine a short time later and taken into custody. He was charged with murder, attempted murder, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Officer DeGuzman had served with the San Diego Police Department for 16 years and was assigned to the Gang Suppression Unit. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Caught in the Under-Current . . . 2/19/2014

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Devotions

Caught in the Under-Current

“You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them” 

—Psalm 89:9—

I did a Google search recently and discovered that today’s world population is just under 7 billion people.  Of these 7 billion people we have many different ethnicities (Asian, African, European, Latin American, North American, Canadian, etc.) each with their own language.  We have people of many different cultures, colors, and backgrounds.  On the economic scale we have people of upper, middle and lower class.  In many parts of the world, people are living in utter poverty. I could break the population down much further, but I’ll stop here.  The question I want to ask is this—aside from the fact that we are going to die one day, what one thing do all 7 billion people on planet earth have in common?   The one thing that everyone can relate with is—Grief.  Everyone grieves.  Whether it’s grieving the loss of a job, the loss of a love one, or a personal physical loss, we all know what it feels like to grieve. 

Grief takes you to the top of the wave and then breaks, and in the breakwater you struggle with the froth of emotions.  Remember this: waves—though powerful—eventually run out of energy.  As they move closer to the shore their power is spent and they slowly bubble up to the edge of the sand.  My point is this: the more we stand & fight the waves, the more exhausted we become.  It’s an exercise in futility, and the same is true with grief.  Instead, we need to take a step that for many people is very difficult.  That step is the step of “yielding” to it, and let it do its work in our life.  In other words, we’re not to fight the under-current of the wave or the grief. 

Caleb was a patient man and refused to become discouraged.  Forty years later when Caleb was 85 years old, God’s people finally entered the land that God had promised to them.  As Joshua began allotting the land to the different tribes, Caleb reminded him of the personal allotment of land promised him by Moses.  It was a very mountainous area filled with all kinds of obstacles, infested by giants.  Israel’s enemies were the strongest there, and it was the most difficult part of the entire Promised Land to subdue.  Caleb feared no foe and he desired no rest.  Why?  Because he knew the Lord was with him.  He said to Joshua, “I am as strong this day as the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength . . . Now therefore, give me this mountain” (Joshua 14:11).  He was asking for mountains to climb and giants to conquer. 

Caleb wasn’t content with the easy path in life.  He wasn’t afraid of the giants in his life.  Why?  Because he never forgot the promises of God.  In Numbers 14:9, after the men had spied out the new land, 10 having given a bad report, Caleb attempts to encourage the people by saying, “do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey . . . and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”  The difference between him and the 10 spies was their awareness of God.  Caleb’s strength was in the Lord, and He knew that God would never fail him.  He knew that his God was bigger than any mountain or any giant he would ever face. 

The secret to Caleb’s life is found in a phrase that is repeated six times in scripture, “He wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.”  This doesn’t mean that Caleb was faultless or that he never blundered, and that he was absolutely perfect.  It does mean that he was loyal and devoted to God, and that he put God first in all things. 

What about you and I?  What mountain stands before us?  What giant stands in our way?  Is it a relationship, a workplace, or a church issue?  Is it a giant of fear and failure waiting to crush you?  Is it the mountain of debt?  Is it the giant of illness?  Have you been told you’re about to lose your home to foreclosure?  Have you recently been informed that you have cancer?  There is no question that these are difficult issues to have to deal with, but, let us remember the promises of God as Caleb did, “. . . the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”  As we totally surrender to God; giving Him our undivided attention; remaining loyal and devoted to Him; wholly following Him; remembering there is no mountain and no giant too big that our God is not bigger, then, we can say as Caleb did . . . . . . . . . .

“The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.”

—Psalm 93:4—

If God is for us, who can be against us,

Chaplain Steve

Detective Jeremiah MacKay

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Memorial

Detective Jeremiah MacKay

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department

Biographical Information
Age: 35
Tour: 15 years
Badge # Not available

Incident Details
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 2/12/2013
Weapon: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect: Committed suicide

Detective Jeremiah MacKay was shot and killed as he and other deputies attempted to apprehend the suspect wanted for murdering Police Officer Michael Crain, of the Riverside Police Department, and Public Safety Officer Keith Lawrence, of the University of Southern California Department of Public Safety.

After murdering Officer Crain, the subject fled to the Big Bear area of San Bernardino County, where he remained at large for several days. On February 12th, the subject broke into a cabin and tied the occupants up before stealing their truck. The victims were able to free themselves and called 911 to report the incident.

A short time later, game wardens with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife spotted the truck near the intersection of Glass Road and Highway 38. After a vehicle-to-vehicle shootout, the subject fled into the woods and barricaded himself inside a cabin, which was immediately surrounded by law enforcement officers, as the SWAT team responded to the area. Hundreds of rounds were exchanged during a prolonged shootout, in which Detective MacKay and another deputy were both wounded. Both deputies were flown to Loma Linda University Hospital where Detective MacKay succumbed to his wounds.

Share The Giver

Written by Steve Ballinger. Posted in Devotions

Share The Giver

The other night, I had the opportunity to visit a home up in what would be considered a very wealthy section of our community. This home was a beautiful, white, two-story structure, set high on a hill, overlooking the city of Riverside. Its large, U-shaped driveway took you right to the front porch, where it was impossible not to notice the towering double doors with stained glass windows leading into the home. The yard was perfectly manicured, causing one to gasp, while the panoramic view made you envious. So beautiful! So enticing!

I began thinking to myself, “These people have everything. They have it made. Wow! What a life. They are what America is all about. They are what Americans strive to be.” I began to wonder who these blessed people were who were living within the confines of this angelic structure.

As I entered the house, I was surprised at what I saw. I saw a large entry way with a lack of furniture. I saw a beautiful curved stairway with absolutely no pictures or portraits on the wall. I saw a 6′ wide x 25′ long empty hallway with nothing but doors leading to other rooms. I saw a master bedroom half the size of my entire home, with only a bed, a dresser, and a crucifix on the wall. I saw a master bathroom, with a tiled sunken tub the size of my spa. And, oh yes, I saw a 37 year old female, wife and mother, lying on the bathroom floor, after a failed attempt to kill herself. They weren’t as blessed as I had first thought.

The people in this house—from the outside looking in—appeared wealthy. But once on the inside, I quickly discovered what they really had. They had marital problems, arguments, fights, hurt, pain, sorrow, unhappiness, lack of joy. You name it! They had crisis, after crisis, after crisis. Suddenly I was hit with the stark reality of someone, who by all outside appearances, had it all, but inside, her life was filled with turmoil to the point of ending it.

Someone once said, “Wealth is not his who has it, but his who enjoys it.” I saw no joy in this household. These people of wealth were, in reality, very poor. They had a house, but not a home. They had a bed, but not a good night’s sleep. They had a cross on the wall, but not a Savior. The possessions they had they did not own, but instead, their possessions owned them—to the point of self-destruction. These people thought their possessions would bring them happiness. They didn’t! These people thought the gifts of the world would bring them joy. They didn’t! They had the gifts of the world, but not the Giver who created the world.

My point is this: These people in my story are real and they are everywhere. They may be your co-worker, your neighbor, or even a family member. No matter who they are, they need to hear about the Giver. Let us never forget these people. This Christmas season let us share the gift of God’s love to these people every opportunity we have.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment”
—1 Timothy 6:17—

Merry Christmas,

Chaplain Steve