Reedley remembers fallen police officer

City holds memorial and blood drive to honor Javier Bejar, a Reedley officer who died in the line of duty in 2010

Reedley Police Department holds a ceremony for the Javier Bejar Blood Drive. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published February 27, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

REEDLEY – For the 14th consecutive year, the Reedley Police Department (RPD) held a memorial for Reedley Police Officer Javier Bejar, the only officer in the department’s 100 year history to die in the line of duty. In conjunction with the memorial, the city held the Officer Javier Bejar Blood Drive.

On Feb. 26, at 10 a.m. in front of Reedley City Hall, Police Chief Joe Garza, flanked by senior officers in his department, told the crowd he was honored to serve as master of ceremonies for the solemn occasion.

“Today marks, believe it or not, 14 years since that indelible day that altered the course of many lives,” Garza said. “The pain of that tragic day has eased with time yet the memory of their valiant sacrifice made by these two brave heroes remains ever present in our hearts.”

Garza said Bejar’s death is a grim reminder of the risks all police officers take simply by putting on their uniforms.

“His sacrifice is a somber reminder of the risks our officers take every day, donning the uniform with the resolve to serve and to protect, no matter the cost,” said Garza.

On Feb. 25, 2010, shortly after 10 a.m., Bejar and Fresno County Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier attempted to serve a search warrant on Minkler resident Rich Liles, who was a suspect in a series of arsons in the town. Cal Fire investigators and six other deputies accompanied Bejar and Wahlenmaier.

Liles refused the party entry to his trailer. Law enforcement forced entry, at which point Liles started firing. It was later revealed that Liles possessed a small arsenal of weapons.

Wahlenmaier was shot at the scene. The party retreated. They fanned out and returned fire. Bejar was 240 feet from Liles’ trailer when he was felled by a rifle shot. Liles died from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Bejar was transported to Fresno County Regional Medical Center (CRMC), where he was placed on life support. He succumbed to his injuries at 3:30 a.m. on March 1. He was 28.

Wahlenmaier, 51, was also transported to CRMC, where, too, died from his injuries.

RPD Commander Marc Ediger said from an early age, Bejar was drawn to a life of service.

“His journey began with his involvement with the Reedley Police Department Explorer Program,” Ediger said.

Bejar joined the Marines and served in Iraq. After being honorably discharged, he graduated from the Fresno City College Police Academy. He eventually joined RPD. During his tenure with the force, he served as a patrol officer, a field training officer, and a member of the department’s rapid deployment team. He rose to the level of corporal, the rank he held at the time of his death.

Two wreaths flanked the podium where the speakers delivered their remarks. Garza said the wreaths were a tribute to all first responders, “symbolizing our gratitude to those who have given everything in the line of duty.”

As a trumpeter played “Taps,” the RPD Honor Guard raised the American flag to half-staff. Following the flag raising, Bejar’s sister, Daisy, spoke on behalf of the family. Her remarks are included in their entirety.

“Good morning. On behalf of the Bejar family, I want to start by saying thank you. For the Bejar family, Feb. 25 has become a day to get together, to gather and remember Javier’s memory. To celebrate his life and to enjoy mom’s delicious food just as Javier did. It’s also the day when we feel the love and support from the Reedley Police Department, the Reedley community, and all of you who are here, year after year, to make the time and effort to honor Javier’s memory. 

When thinking about the words we can share with you, we feel at a loss for words. But what always comes through is our gratitude. Our parents have said that if they could overcome their fear of public speaking, they would say, ‘Gracias.’ Thank you for continuing to remember Javier. Thank you for continuing to honor his memory. Thank you for continuing to honor his life and his service. It might sound repetitive and even old and boring to you to hear the same words from us, but we will continue to say them year after year. We thank each of you. We also thank God for His love, His strength, and His comfort and the ability to persevere in the face of our huge pain and our huge loss. 

Once again, thank you to the RPD, thank you to the Reedley community, thank you to friends, thank you to family, thank you to coworkers and to fellow law enforcement.”

Flags will remain at half-staff until 5 p.m. on March 1.

For the blood drive, the Central California Blood Center had a mobile unit onsite. The blood drive lasted from 9 a.m. to noon.

Darren Fraser