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Fallen Heroes Details

In Memory Of
Richard Romero
Imperial County Sheriffs Department, CA
End of watch: 1988-10-24
Aircraft: Bell UH1
Five sheriff's deputies from Southern California and three National Guardsmen were killed when the helicopter they were flying in a joint drug interdiction mission snagged on a power line and exploded into a hillside in western Imperial County.

The accident occurred Monday, Oct. 24, about 9:30 p.m., approximately 63 miles east of San Diego on what was described as a training flight on the first night of an unpublicized anti-drug surveillance program called Operation Border Ranger. The National Guard UH-1H Huey helicopter crashed when it tried to make a pass through an isolated canyon to close in on a parked car thought to belong to drug smugglers, a National Guard spokesman stated.

Killed in the crash were five deputies from a consortium of six Southern California sheriff's departments that sponsored Operation Border Ranger, an anti-drug smuggling program that was quietly organized earlier this year. The three dead guardsmen were stationed with the 140th Aviation Unit at the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center in Orange County.

The dead deputies were identified as Sgt. Richard G. Romero, 39, El Centro, a 14-year veteran in Imperial County; Roy A. Chester, 41, of La Verne, and James D. McSweeney, 43, of Huntington Beach, both 12-year Los Angeles County Sheriff's veterans; Mark Steven Tonkin, 31, Chino, a seven-year member of the Orange County Sheriff's Department; and Investigator Michael David Davis, 34, Indio, a nine-year veteran Riverside County deputy. San Diego and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Departments, the other participants in the program, had no one on board.

The deputies who died were all experienced narcotics officers.

Romero was in the same 1966 Calexico High School graduating class as slain Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique Camarena. He was not scheduled to be on the flight but pulled rank and bumped another deputy to get a seat on the ill-fated training mission.

Thoughts and Memories of Richard Romero

To my brother whom I LOVED AND STILL LOVE with all of my heart. I remember you always with a warm smile and caring personality. I hold all my memories tight in my heart. I miss you and I miss you telling me "I Love You Baby." you always gave me uplifting and encouring words. I Will Never Forget You. God Bless You. LOVE ALWAYS AND FOREVER
Mary Ann Romero-Cook
Richard was a great brother in law. His patience love and understanding will always remain with me. I miss him so much. I know he is resting in peace with his mom, who was a beautiful woman who taught me about love, kindness and gentleness. Richard lives in my heart and I think about the promise I made him and was unable to keep, but know he understands and loves me just the same.
Dorothy Christianson


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