Past and present Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials gathered in Stevenson Ranch on Monday to remember Deputy Hagop “Jake” Kuredjian, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving and protecting the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Each year on Aug. 31, sheriff’s deputies stand watch for 24 hours in remembrance of Kuredjian, who was shot and killed in the line of duty 19 years ago.
“He was a partner, he was a son, he was a lawman, he was a brother, he was a motorcyclist, but, maybe most importantly, he was just simply a member of the Santa Clarita community,” SCV Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez said during the memorial ceremony. “When you ask yourself, ‘What can we do to honor Jake?’ I think it’s pretty simple … honor Santa Clarita, the community, serve it with pride, serve it with dignity, and serve it with a smile and a laugh, just the way Jake did. I know that’s what he would want.”
This year, Kuredjian’s family, friends and former colleagues joined in the ceremony at the monument dedicated to Kuredjian, located at the corner of Stevenson Ranch Parkway and Poe Parkway.
“The fact that they remember my brother means so much to our family,” said Kuredjian’s brother Garo, who’s a sheriff’s deputy in Ventura County. “One of the most important things to us is keeping his memory alive, and things like this keep his memory alive.
“From the very worst day of our lives to now, they’ve kept his memory alive,” Garo added, as he wiped away tears. “We’re just honored, we’re absolutely honored, and we’re very grateful; we’re humbled that people continue to remember.”
In addition to the deputies who came to pay their respects, the Sheriff’s Department’s Aero Bureau and Mounted Enforcement Detail also turned out in support, with a sheriff’s helicopter flying over the monument, sirens blaring, while the mounted detail took a turn standing watch.
The Los Angeles County Memorial Cruiser, an old squad car repainted with the names of each law enforcement officer in L.A. County who died in the line of duty since 1850, was also parked next to the memorial throughout the day.
While organizing this year’s memorial ceremony, Deputies Candice Davis and Kristine Cervantes said they were able to learn about Kuredjian, calling him an amazing friend and always willing to step up and help others, as well as having “a larger-than-life personality,” Davis said.
Both brought their families out to the ceremony, something they felt was important for Kuredjian’s memory and their own families.
“Our husbands are both law enforcement officers, as well, so coming from families like that, it’s so important to us to keep the memory and traditions alive, because if something were to happen to us, we want the same for our kids,” Cervantes said.
“It’s just an honor to be a part of,” Davis added.
All on-duty deputies assigned to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station also wore long-sleeve class “A” uniforms with a tie Monday as a tribute to their fallen comrade, according to a Nixle statement from Sheriff’s Department officials.
Assigned to the SCV Sheriff’s Station in 1995, the then-40-year-old Kuredjian was a 17-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department.
On the morning of his death, he responded to reports of “shots fired” in Stevenson Ranch, where agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were serving a search warrant to a man for impersonating a police officer and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials.
Kuredjian arrived to find a suspect barricaded in his home, keeping “law enforcement officers at bay with a bevy of shots,” according to previous reports.
After several hours and hundreds of shots fired by the suspect, officers attempted to gain entry through a window. The man opened fire with an automatic rifle, and Kuredjian was fatally struck in the head.
To those who knew him, Kuredjian left a lasting mark, including retired Sheriff’s Department Chief John Benedict, who was one of Kuredjian’s training officers.
“He was a very difficult trainee, to say the least,” Benedict said, as chuckles erupted from nearby colleagues. “He’s lucky (he) got off training. In fact, I wasn’t his only training officer. He had to go through several of them to get off training.”
As Benedict worked with him throughout his career, he saw Kuredjian grow.
“I watched him grow not only as a person, but as a police officer, (as he) realized the scope of the ominous job that he had, protecting the people and providing the service — and he never forgot that, ever,” Benedict said.
Joining law enforcement was a dream come true for Kuredjian, which showed through his dedication to the job.
“From the very beginning,” Benedict added, “you could see how committed he was not only to helping others — because that’s really what he wanted to do — but to fulfilling his dream and what he felt was an obligation really to give back.”