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CHP Remembers John Pedro's 'End of Watch'

The Watsonville native and highway patrolman died in a crash in South County on June 3, 2002.

California Highway Patrolman John Pedro began donating to charities that support the families of fallen CHP officers after his police academy roommate, Sean Nava, was hit and killed by a drunk driver while investigating a collision in Southern California in October 2000.

Less than two years later, Pedro's own family became eligible for that assistance.

A Watsonville High graduate, Pedro died the morning of June 3, 2002. He was on duty, patrolling in South County when he tried to overtake and stop a speeding vehicle. Pedro lost control of his CHP cruiser and broadsided a tree.

Pedro was 36.

The 10-year anniversary of Pedro's "end of watch" was commemorated Friday in a solemn ceremony at the CHP office in Aptos.

Pedro is one of three Santa Cruz-area CHP officers killed in the line of duty. Donald Hoover died in 1934 and Lt. Mike Walker was killed on Highway 17 in 2005. Since its inception in 1929, the CHP has lost 222 uniformed members in line-of-duty deaths.

"Their sacrifice was a tragic loss," Coastal Division Chief Reginald Chappelle said.

Pedro was a CHP officer for 12 years. Before that, he attended local community colleges and San Jose State University, and was in the Air Force Reserves, where he played in the military band.

Pedro's widow, Colleen Gilmartin, told the group of emergency responders, local leaders, family and friends that her husband was a shy guy who didn't seek recognition. She only learned of his donations to CHP-related charities after his death.

"I was touched," said Gilmartin, who followed in her husband's footsteps to become a CHP officer, but stepped down after his death.

She thanked the CHP family that helped she and her young daughter after Pedro died: bringing them food, taking flowers to his grave and more.

After his death, a section of Highway 1 in Watsonville was dedicated in Pedro's memory.

At Friday's event, Tony Madrigal, a staffer for state Assemblyman Luis Alejo, presented Gilmartin with an Assembly proclamation from both Alejo and Rep. Bill Monning. 

"He may not be with us any longer, but he will not be forgotten," Chappelle said.

The crash, on Highway 129 off ramp from northbound Highway 1, happened at 6:59 a.m. For unknown reasons, Pedro lost control of his cruiser, according to Santa Cruz Area Commander Captain Matt Olson.

Scotts Valley Police Chief John Weiss, then a police sergeant and a part-time cartoonist for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, drew a cartoon about the loss of the CHP officer. It was never published—Weiss said the newspaper didn't have space that week—but he saved the drawing and presented it to Gilmartin at Friday's event.

"We lose people that we love and, even though time passes, we never forget them," Weiss said.

Pedro is survived by his wife, their 12-year-old daughter Sara, and his mother, who lives in Washington state, Olson said.

To close the ceremony, Capitola police chaplain Richard Rice and reverend of Messiah Lutheran Church in Santa Cruz shared a benediction: "may his memory ever stand as one who went down brave."

Rus Orlandos June 01, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Brian Ridgway and I were the first to arrive on the scene, we have never forgotten that moment. RIP John.
Jennifer Squires June 02, 2012 at 12:18 AM
It was a touching ceremony today.
Jennifer Squires June 03, 2013 at 01:11 PM
I reposted this story today -- June 3, 2013 -- because it's the 11th anniversary of CHP Officer John Pedro's in-the-line-of-duty death. Thought people may be thinking of him today and there were some special memories shared at this ceremony last year.

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