CORDELIA -- Scores of friends and well-wishers gathered at a Cordelia park Wednesday evening in support of a California Highway Patrol officer who was shot in the line of duty the day before and died at a Bay Area hospital just before the start of the vigil.
Officer Kenyon Youngstrom was shot and critically wounded Tuesday morning during a vehicle stop on Interstate 680 in Alamo, moments before the shooter, identified as 38-year-old Christopher Boone Lacy of Corning, was shot and killed by another CHP officer. Officials announced Wednesday that Youngstrom, a Cordelia resident, was taken off life support at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek and succumbed to his injuries at 6:05 p.m.
Supporters began trickling into Ridgeview Park around 7 p.m. for the informal vigil, organized by the members of the PTA at Oakbrook Elementary School, where one of Youngstrom's four children is said to attend.
Capt. Sam Dickson said the CHP is continuing to search for answers and a possible motive for the shooting that occurred a little more than a month after Youngstrom was reassigned to road patrol.
"Sometimes there's meaning and sometimes there's not," he said.
Shockwaves from the shooting were felt across the law enforcement family, as residents from around the Bay Area came to show support.
"It's absolutely devastating," said Kristin Schriver, whose husband is a motor sergeant in San Francisco.
"You can never, ever, ever plan," she said. "You can just hope that any one of your loved ones, in whatever job they do, that they come home at night."
Cordelia resident Amy Whitted said the vigil was originally organized in hopes of giving kids in the community "a place to express their feelings or say something."
"We're a very close community here in Cordelia," she said. "We kind of all know each other or know about each other."
Coming from Danville to show his support, Steve Walker said he is no stranger to losing loved ones in the line of duty after his younger brother, Mike, also a CHP officer, was killed in 2005.
"You never recover from something like this," he said. "You cope. But you never recover."
Walker noted that there are several organizations, such as Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), that help with the coping process.
"You certainly don't expect these things to happen, especially in good communities," he added.
"The CHP is like a big family ... they would do whatever was needed," he said. "I just came here to support. To show, hey, I care."
By the vigil's 7:30 p.m. start, hundreds of onlookers, including city and state officials, along with dozens of law enforcement officers clustered together, candlelight illuminating some of the faces in the crowd.
Those who knew Youngstrom recalled him as a "great guy" and "family oriented."
"He loved his kids, four kids, and that's all he ever focused on," recalled fellow CHP Officer Andrew Frentzel, a former neighbor of Youngstrom's, who had known him for about five years. "That's all he ever talked about is his kids and his wife."
Tears were shed and eyes wiped as Vallejo police chaplain Charles Brown announced to the crowd that Youngstrom had been taken off life support.
In a statement issued Wednesday night, CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow called Youngstrom's passing a sad day not only for the CHP but for all Californians.
"Officer Youngstrom was a valued member of the CHP family, a dedicated officer and soldier who gave his life serving the people of California," he said. "He now joins a distinguished group of heroes whose names are engraved upon the CHP Memorial Fountain and who will forever be remembered for their valiant sacrifice and service."
Farrow thanked those who kept the Youngstrom family in their thoughts and prayers.
"We will be forever grateful for the continued support of the public, the public safety agencies and good Samaritans that rendered their assistance to our officer at the scene, and the community and medical personnel following Tuesday's tragic events," he added. "That support gives all of us strength during these moments of grief and mourning."