Deputy Jenna Nunez
Ten-year Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department veteran, Deputy Jenna Nunez, not only talks about honoring fellow first responders lost in the line-of-duty, she showed it in the best way she knew how: running a half-marathon race in the uniform she dons daily to make a physical declaration of esteem and appreciation for them.
It is not easy or convenient to run 13 miles wearing a near-30 pounds of cumbersome tactical gear, but Jenna did it affectionately and willingly, out of a deeply-seated sense of respect for the sacrifices made by the men and women in law enforcement who gave up absolutely everything while wearing their uniforms.
The inaugural Run to Remember Los Angeles race kicked off in 2016, initiated by fellow Angeleno law enforcement brothers from the Los Angeles Police Department, to honor other first responders killed in the line of duty. The half-marathon and 10 K run is a sister race of Run to Remember Boston, which was founded in 2014 and occurs annually on Memorial Day weekend.
The Los Angeles-based event, which included several local police and fire departments, went off without a hitch on Sunday, February 12, 2017. Everyone runs for a reason and, for her journey, Jenna paid special tribute to two recently-lost, LASD brothers, Sergeant Steve Owen and Sergeant Al Lopez, and showed her support for one in medical crisis, Sergeant Jorge Chavez.
Sergeant Owen was a beloved friend, experienced supervisor and endeared team leader to many. He was assigned to Lancaster Sheriff’s Station and was killed by a suspect fleeing the scene of a burglary. The suspect, a parolee with an extensive criminal history, in possession of a stolen gun, unleashed a dynamic procession of barbaric acts against deputies and civilians on Wednesday, October 5, 2016. Sergeant Owen, who arrived first at the scene, was initially shot once by the suspect; the suspect stood over the good sergeant’s body and mercilessly delivered four more rounds to ensure his demise.
Sergeant Al Lopez dedicated 15 years of his career as a skilled and tenacious detective assigned to Special Victim’s Bureau. He was tasked with investigating some of the most difficult and abominable cases of physical and sexual abuse to children, and took pride in his ability to advocate for the justice of little ones too young to speak for themselves. He was unshakable and relentless in the defense of those who were defenseless. Upon promoting, Sergeant Lopez was assigned to Compton Sheriff’s Station. It was on Monday, October 24, 2016, when Sergeant Lopez suffered a medical emergency while driving a patrol car, headed out to assist his charge of deputies at a service call.
Sergeant Chavez was recently diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a form of blood cancer which usually begins in the bone marrow, and can quickly spread throughout the body, if left untreated. Sergeant Chavez is receiving a second course of chemotherapy; when the treatment is finished, his body will need to replace marrow destroyed during the process. Prior to conclusion of the treatment, an urgent search for a matching bone marrow donor is being conducted on his behalf.
When asked about her decision to run in uniform, Jenna said she did it to raise the curiosity of others at the event; in turn, it allowed her to share the names of Sergeant Owen, Sergeant Lopez and Sergeant Chavez. She hoped it would motivate people to consider bone marrow donation for the good of Sergeant Chavez and the benefit of many others.
The fact that Jenna ran to bring recognition to three great examples of uniform leadership and humanity is ironic, especially when we remember that Jenna is also a recognized hero. It was in 2013, while five months pregnant, that Jenna jumped into a lake, swam 100 yards to rescue a drowning teen and resuscitated him. For her actions and exceptional courage, she was presented that same year with the highest honor of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department bestows, the Medal of Valor. She was also presented the national Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor by Vice-President Joe Biden during a 2015 ceremony with Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, DC; talk about heroes!
Jenna is humble about her accolades and takes example from many great leaders on our Department. Assigned to mentor inmates through the Education Based Incarceration program at Twin Towers Corrections Facility, a member of the LASD Women’s Running Team, charity volunteer, and a mom, it is easy to see Jenna strives daily in her personal and professional life to better the courses of those around her and be an extraordinary example, just like those for whom she paid homage today.
LASD extends thanks to Jenna for running and remembering Sergeant Steve Owen, Sergeant Al Lopez and Sergeant Jorge Chavez.
For more information about Run to Remember Los Angeles, click: www.runtorememberLA.org.