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Fallen Heroes Details

In Memory Of
James McSwenney
Los Angeles County Sheriff's 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 James D. McSweeney, 43, of Huntington Beach, and Roy A. Chester, 41, of La Verne, both 12-year Los Angeles County Sheriff's veterans; Sgt. Richard G. Romero, 39, El Centro, a 14-year veteran in Imperial County; 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.

McSweeney, divorced and with no children, was once shot in the arm and chest while apprehending an armed narcotics suspect.

Thoughts and Memories of James McSwenney

I worked with Roy Chester and Jim Mc Sweeney at Firestone Station shortly before they died. Both were honorable men and outstanding cops who are missed greatly.
Mike Griffin