Two decades after Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Hagop “Jake” Kuredjian made the ultimate sacrifice, his memory remains alive and well in the hearts of those who knew him.
A ceremony held Tuesday at the corner of Stevenson Ranch and Poe parkways marked 20 years since Kuredjian was shot and killed in the line of duty in service of the Santa Clarita Valley.
There, Kuredjian’s family and community gathered around his memorial to pay tribute to his life and memory.
“On Aug. 31, 2001, Jake received a radio call that officers needed assistance,” said Garo Kuredjian, Jake’s brother. “He did what he always did. He answered that call with selfless dedication.”
Garo Kuredjian, the police chief for the city of Filmore, said his older brother was his role model. Jake, he told a crowd of deputies, firefighters and community members, made a lasting impression on him through his courage, confidence and commitment.
“Jake was someone that was larger than life. He knew how to handle himself in every situation,” Garo Kuredjian said, expressing gratitude to the Sheriff’s Department for remembering his brother. “He knew when to talk and, more importantly, when to listen. He knew when to be patient, but also when to take action. He was a great big brother, a great son, a great friend and a great partner.”
Jake’s brother Raffi Kuredjian travelled to Santa Clarita from Michigan to attend the ceremony.
“It brings back sad memories,” he said of his brother, who was 40 years old in 2001. “We miss him.”
Raffi Kuredjian said he’s grateful that the Sheriff’s Department continues to memorialize his brother’s dedication and service.
“He really loved the community. He lived here. He played here. He truly was dedicated to this community. And he did what he loved to do,” he said. “It’s been 20 years. It seems like yesterday.”
Anahid Kuredjian, Jake’s mother, seated next to her granddaughter, reflected on the day she said she could never forget.
“His goal was to be helpful to people and he was. Our family’s life changed after his death, but his memory is everlasting in us,” she said. “He was so proud to be a (sheriff’s deputy). It’s like he was born to be a deputy.”
Don Rodriguez, who was the captain of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station 20 years ago, remembered Kuredjian as always gregarious, outgoing, funny and hard working.
“He was just a wonderful guy,” he said. “The day was just terrible. It’s still terrible.”
Deputies who served with Kuredjian at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, where he was stationed before moving to Santa Clarita, also attended the ceremony.
“He was one of those guys who loved life,” said Steve Rohrbach, remembering Kuredjian as someone who was loved by everyone at the Malibu Station. “He was a very funny guy, upbeat.”
Dave Chambers also served with Kuredjian in Malibu. He said they would take day rides on their motorcycles.
“He was an avid motorcycle rider,” Chambers said of Kuredjian, who was a motorcycle deputy at the end of his 17 years of service.
SCV Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez said Aug. 31 represents a significant day for the history of Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
“We’re all here today to mourn his passing and also celebrate his life as we stand here at this monument, uninterrupted for 24 hours,” he said of the annual tradition of standing watch at Kuredjian’s memorial.
Diez thanked the community and the Kuredjian family and issued a reminder to deputies at the ceremony.
“Every day when you get dressed and don your uniform and don your badge, remember what Jake stood for,” Diez told deputies. “You’ve got the most honorable job in the world, always remember that. When others run or ask for help — you respond, you perform.”
Diez also had a message for Jake Kuredjian:
“We know you’re looking down upon us today and every day — probably a smile, probably a tear, probably a little bit of laughter, probably pride in your face,” he said. “We know that you’re a guardian angel watching over us during all our close calls in our daily events.”
Dan Finn, a detective with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, worked with Kuredjian in Santa Clarita. He said his late colleague epitomized the definition of a hero.
“All of us have a memory of Jake and that’s what keeps him alive,” he said.
And those memories will always have a place in Santa Clarita, Diez said.
“Every year we will meet here in this exact location for generations to come,” he said. “And Jake’s memory will be etched in the fabric of this community.”