That’s my Dad, taking off his gun belt, leaning against his busted-up patrol car, standing on a leg with a shattered kneecap. Underneath his shirt, his chest and upper arms were a massive, deep bruise, the steering wheel imprinted square in the middle of his chest. The seat belt saved his life.
The scene is five miles outside of Fairfield, California, where Dad was a Solano County Deputy Sheriff, in the 1960’s.
On his way into town at the end of his shift, an oncoming motorist had suddenly crossed into Dad’s lane sideways and he went from 65 to 0 in about 100 feet.
Smack into a giant Pontiac Bonneville station wagon, he managed to turn the patrol car sideways a little to spread out the impact.
At the moment that the photo was taken, he had been standing on that kneecap for thirty minutes. He had called it in, climbed out of the car, blood streaming down his face and out of his scalp, and walked over to the other car and made sure that the driver and her children were ok.
Then he stood out on the two-lane highway and directed traffic until help came, standing on the leg.
Although the other driver and her children were uninjured, Dad ordered them into the first ambulance that arrived and waited for the next.
By the time the second ambulance arrived, units from Solano County, the California Highway Patrol, and the cities of Fairfield and Suisun were out there.
John Cruz had a lot of friends, and they came out. Four jurisdictions on the scene.
The loss of the kneecap meant the end of a 14-year career as a patrol officer, covering hundreds of square miles of Solano County, and serving as a court interpreter in both Spanish and French.
Dad loved his job. He was a fine peace officer, personifying the concept of “community policing” long before the term was invented. He was a problem solver and a communicator. A multi-lingual communicator.
He was my hero and my brother Dana’s hero.
There was never a time in our lives that Dad wasn’t there for us.
Except for when he was on duty, he took Dana and I with him everywhere. We met just about everybody in town and out on the ranches and farms in the county. Growing up, we met them all.
Dad not only spoke with everybody, he spoke with many in their own languages.
The steering wheel put this massive bruise on his chest and arms. That bruise took a long, long time to heal.
What we couldn’t see was how damaged his heart was, and several years later he began suffering heart attacks. He passed away in 1975, at an otherwise very youthful 52 years of age.
No day passes in which Dana and I do not remember him, and fondly, proud to have had him in our lives.