Officer Jonathan Diaz was a template for what defines excellence in law enforcement

By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
A token of appreciation for Officer Jonathan Diaz greets visitors to the Lemoore Police Department on Monday.
A token of appreciation for Officer Jonathan Diaz greets visitors to the Lemoore Police Department on Monday.

To the best of my knowledge, I never met Lemoore Police Officer Jonathan Diaz. But I know well the drive, the ambition, and the resolve this young man possessed. The same traits run rampant in the ranks of the Lemoore Police Department, from the chief of police to the plethora of volunteers who willingly give up their spare time to make Lemoore a better city.

During my long career here as an educator, administrator, city councilman and mayor, and newspaper editor, I know full well the spirit and professionalism that thrives at the Lemoore Police Department.

Like many in his profession, Officer Diaz, barely 31 years old, always wanted to be a police officer, not because it was cool or offered a regular paycheck, but because it was necessary. It was his route to helping others and ultimately making a difference.

We often offer platitudes like these when remembering someone, but in this case, they’re all true. These aren’t my words, but rather they are the long-held judgments of his friends, his co-workers, and his family. These are the people who knew him well, who saw him nearly every day.

By now, the circumstances behind his tragic demise are well known. While not in uniform, the young man from Huron, the father of three children, was forced to bring his personal and professional skills to bear in an attempt to diffuse a difficult situation. That is what police officers do, whether they’re in uniform or not, and on a tragic Saturday night in Hanford, Diaz was put to the test.

He was doing his job that night. He stepped up to help a young girl, but in his effort to dissuade his friend from committing violence, he paid for it with his life.

Lemoore’s chief of police, Michael Kendall, who has been on the job less than a month, visited the crime scene Saturday night and identified Diaz. In his office on Monday afternoon, Kendall sat behind his desk, checking his emotions, as he conveyed this well thought out reflections of Officer Diaz. It was clear that Diaz’s death hit the department hard, from the police chief to the volunteers staffing the front office.

A memorial sits at the base of the flagpole just outside the front door of the police station. In the lobby is a plaque commemorating Officer Diaz’s 2018 Public Safety Officer of the Year award, quite the honor for a relatively new police officer.

“We have to look to what we have to do to move forward,” said a solemn Kendall from behind his office desk Monday afternoon. “We have time on our side.”

The unfortunate aspect of Kendall’s job is to meet with an officer’s loved ones. “We talked with the family. I met with his mother and brother that night and again on Sunday morning,” he said. “He has a law enforcement family that wants to be a part of his services.”

It seemed difficult for Kendall to talk about Diaz. It was evident in his words that he – and the department – had a tremendous amount of respect for the young officer who came to the department in 2016 as a reserve officer from Huron. It wasn’t long before his drive and skills caught the attention of his superiors, including Chief Darrell Smith and then commander Mike Kendall.

“We hired him full time in 2017,” said Kendall. “It was simply his passion for law enforcement. He had a real interest in gang investigations, but with him, the sky was the limit.”

The Coalinga High School grad and father of three developed a strong work ethic growing up in the Central Valley, particularly in Huron, where he spent his formative years.

“He has a really strong work ethic,” said Kendall. “He and his brothers tried to stay on the right path.”

He brought that work ethic to the Lemoore Police Department and soon began meeting the challenges of law enforcement. “He was well respected by everyone in the department. They all really respected him for his guidance.”

Kendall told The Leader that his job consumed Diaz. “He wanted to do it all.” It was like he was prepping himself for a leadership role at some point in his career. He worked with gangs, helped with field training, and even expressed a desire to work with the K9 dog.  “He wanted to check all the boxes. There wasn’t anybody in the department that had anything bad to say about him.”

On his own, as part of the Youth Adult Awareness Program (YAAP), the talented young officer worked with young people, exposing them to various elements of crime and justice, all to divert them from the dark side of criminal justice. “He would work with at-risk youth and take them to the Coalinga prison and have prisoners talk to them,” said Kendall.

The potential of this young man was limitless. He was certainly on track for a leadership role at some point in his career.

Leadership brings with it tremendous responsibilities, including identifying a fallen police officer and informing parents, wives, friends that a loved one has died. It was Kendall’s job Saturday night to confirm the death of one of his officers. “During that 15-minute drive (to the crime scene), I was hoping that it wasn’t (one of his officers),” he somberly told me.

The work continues, and for the brave law enforcement officer, there is no respite from crime.

The Lemoore Police Officers’ Association (LPOA) and the Hanford Police Officers’ Association have created a crowdfunding page through the Police Officers Research Association (PORAC) Fund, a Hero program to raise money for Lemoore Police Officer Jonathan Diaz. The campaign can be located at

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