CORONA — About 1,000 friends and law enforcement officers from throughout Southern California paid tribute Thursday to Corona Police Officer Patricia Dwyer, who was shot to death in a freeway altercation.
Mrs. Dwyer, 45, killed last Friday night while off duty and helping to transport her son to a Riverside hospital, was eulogized as a loving and compassionate woman, dedicated to her friends, family and profession.
"We are family," Lt. Sam Spiegel told an overflow audience at Crossroads Christian Church in Corona. "It's a hard thing for the public to understand. . . . The impact she's made on the family will not be forgotten."
Spiegel was but one of about 400 police officers from about 60 departments from as far away as Pismo Beach, Palm Springs and San Clemente who attended Thursday's services. Burial was at Crestlawn Memorial Park in the La Sierra section of northwestern Riverside.
The Rev. Roger Harris, who officiated at the service, said that although police officers confront death daily, "it is not \o7 someone\f7 who has been killed. It is one of your own."
"Even though there are those who live on anger," Harris said, "those of us who are here today show concern and love and compassion."
Police said that Mrs. Dwyer was shot last Friday after an altercation with a motorist who first made an obscene gesture on the eastbound Riverside Freeway.
She was riding with family members and friends back to Riverside after attending motorcycle races in Costa Mesa. Her husband, Mike, was driving their son, Mark, 24, to Riverside General Hospital to have him checked for injuries he suffered in one of the races.
Mike Dwyer flashed his bright lights and tried to pass when a slower car cut him off in the fast lane, he told police. Eventually, he was able to pass the car on the right, but its driver stayed close to the Dwyer van through Santa Ana Canyon and into Corona.
There, the car's driver fired once at the side of the van. The shot killed Mrs. Dwyer, Corona's first female police officer and the mother of three children. It narrowly missed Mark Dwyer, but struck a family friend, Wendy Varga, in the throat.
Varga was listed in good condition Thursday at Corona Community Hospital.
Harold Harvey Hawks, 26, a sheet metal worker, was arrested Tuesday after a telephone tip led police to his parents' home in Pomona. Hawks is scheduled to be arraigned today in Corona Municipal Court. He is being held on $250,000 bail at Riverside County Jail on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and firing a weapon at an occupied vehicle.
Police Wednesday quoted Hawks as admitting that he fired his 12-gauge shotgun at the Dwyers' van but denying that he knew he had struck anyone.
Hawks was taking his 2-year-old son to the mountains for the weekend when, in anger, he fired the single shot, Corona Detective Dale Stewart said. The boy, who lives with Hawks' estranged wife, apparently was asleep.
Tip Helps Break Case
Police said an informant provided Hawks' name, address and a description of his mother's car, which matched descriptions of the car used by the gunman. But the telephone informant "was not a witness to the actual crime," said Corona Police Lt. Bob Martin, commander of detectives. "It was someone who put things together."
Detective Sgt. Ray Cota said the tipster just wanted "to help us solve the crime" and did not mention the $15,000 in rewards offered by the Riverside Firemen's Benefit Assn. and the Alhambra Police Officers Assn.
Mike Dwyer, 48, is a captain in the Riverside city Fire Department. Varga's father, James, is a detective in the Alhambra Police Department.
Those who spoke of her Thursday recalled that Mrs. Dwyer had been a warm, caring woman.
"Perhaps the best way we can pay tribute is to offer those same qualities . . . to those around us so others can experience the beauty of life . . . as Patty has helped us to see it," Corona Police Officer Terry Brandt said, his voice cracking.
Police officers wept openly at the funeral, where Corona Police Chief John Cleghorn presented Mike Dwyer with the folded U. S. flag from atop the coffin. Under a scorching sun at graveside, a procession of friends and officers paid respects to the family, including son Mark, daughters Michelle, 20, and Holly, 17, and Mrs. Dwyer's parents, Jim and Ann Arnett of Vancouver, Wash.
A police honor guard served as pallbearers and presented a 21-gun salute in honor of Mrs. Dwyer, who worked as a police dispatcher for four years before attending the police academy and becoming an officer eight years ago. She had served in the department's SWAT and canine units.