It was a death in the family for the small Maywood Police Department, which was reeling Monday from the unexpected passing of Officer Dan Kelley.
Despite Kelley's numerous injuries from a motorcycle crash 10 days ago--on what officers call his "maiden voyage" as a motorcycle officer--colleagues had understood that he was improving. They were shocked when Kelley died Sunday at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood of what doctors said appeared to be an aneurysm.
"Right now, everybody's sad," said Officer Lynette Johnson, a member of the 27-officer department. "And we'd like to cry, but we can't because we have too much to do."
For some officers, duties such as traffic patrol and ticket writing were replaced with arranging for the funeral, for flowers and for a procession to Wednesday's memorial service.
"It's a big deal for us," said Johnson, who wore a black band across her badge. "We're so close to each other."
Described as energetic, vivacious and fun loving, the 34-year-old Kelley "made the most out of every day," said Sgt. Mark Van Holt, who grew up with Kelley and had known him for about 20 years. "He loved his work, loved being a policeman, [and he] was so excited to be a motorcycle cop."
Kelley's accident occurred just six days after graduation from motor school. Bill Wallace, the department's only other motorcycle officer, had helped train Kelley.
"Danny was very excited when he got his motor appointment," Wallace said. "Being that it was just him and me out there, it is like losing a brother."
The crash occurred about 9 a.m. on July 8, when an unlicensed, uninsured driver pulled out of a driveway and collided with Kelley, police said. The officer was thrown from his motorcycle and suffered a broken shoulder bone, a collapsed lung, crushed ribs, a ruptured spleen and a spinal injury, Wallace said.
The driver was detained and then released by the Huntington Park Police Department, which submitted the case Monday to the district attorney's office, said Huntington Park Sgt. James Kinsey.
Kelley, who was single, had grown up in Orange County, where he played Little League baseball and was a member of the Police Explorers with the Seal Beach Police Department. A graduate of Westminster High School, Kelley enlisted in the Army and became a military police officer. After three years of active duty, he was honorably discharged.
He also attended Golden West College in Huntington Beach and Rancho Santiago College in Garden Grove before beginning his law enforcement career at the Orange County Sheriff's Department in 1987. Just two years later, he became a police officer at the Los Alamitos Police Department and remained there until 1996, when he joined the Riverside County Sheriff's Department as a deputy chief.
Kelley was hired by Maywood last November.
Being an officer was what Kelley had wanted to do since he was about 14, said Bob Krauss, a retired officer from Seal Beach.
"I was excited for him, but I had some apprehension about the job in California, with the amount of traffic," Krauss said.
For the Maywood Police Department, the grieving has just begun.
"When the ceremonies are over, this will sink in," Johnson said.