Most members of the California Highway Patrol who we know don't really fear too much. If they did, they couldn't do such a dangerous job. But in quiet moments, most will confide that the "routine" traffic stop is one of those parts of the job that often gives them trepidation.
Once again, the reason for that wariness was driven home in tragic fashion Tuesday morning as California Highway Patrolman Kenyon Youngstrom was gunned down on I-680 near Alamo as part of such a traffic stop.
It is an unimaginable tragedy for the family of the 37-year-old father of four to receive such devastating news. The knowledge that this could someday happen is the special burden heroically carried -- but seldom discussed -- by the families of those who do hazardous and necessary jobs. That includes police and firefighters and, especially, those in the military, which Youngstrom had done as well.
We join the enormous chorus to offer our deepest sympathies, condolences and gratitude to his family.
The entire community and state in some small way share the family's grief. Once the news broke Wednesday evening that Youngstrom had lost his heroic fight for life in John Muir Medical Center, members of the community began taking flowers, candles and memorial items to the CHP office in Martinez where Youngstrom was based.
As detailed in this newspaper, hundreds of people throughout the state had been mobilized to lend support and comfort to the family.
A motive for the shooting remains uncertain, but the details of it are pretty clear, according to police accounts published in this newspaper.
It began about 8:20 a.m. near the Livorna Road offramp of southbound Interstate 680.
Youngstrom had pulled over to deal with a dead deer and his partner, driving another patrol car, radioed that he was pulling over a car with an obstructed license plate, according to sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee.
The green Jeep Wrangler pulled to the side of the road behind Youngstrom's patrol car, with the second patrol car pulling up behind the Jeep, Lee said.
Youngstrom approached the Jeep from the front and spoke to the driver, 36-year-old Christopher Boone Lacy, through the driver's side door for a few seconds.
Lee said that "without warning" Lacy drew a handgun and shot Youngstrom in the head. The second officer, who had approached the Jeep on the passenger side, shot and killed Lacy.
In announcing the death Wednesday night, CHP Capt. Jonni Fenner described Youngstrom as "a kind person, a giving person, a family man with a great sense of humor. I also want to add that he loved his job, and he loved serving and believed in contributing."
We did not know Officer Youngstrom personally, but in a way, we feel that we did because the description Fenner gave fits just about every California Highway Patrol officer whom we do know.
As we said, we offer our deepest sympathies for this tragic loss.