CHP dedication

Taylor Ornelas stands next to the memorial for her husband Andy Ornelas at the Antelope Valley California Highway Patrol office Lancaster. The memorial was dedicated, Thursday, the one-year anniversary of Andy Ornelas’ end of watch.

LANCASTER — The Antelope Valley California Highway Patrol marked the one-year anniversary of officer Andy Ornelas’ end-of-watch with a dedication ceremony for the Antelope Valley CHP Fallen Officer Memorial to honor Ornelas and his sacrifice.

On Nov. 23, 2020, Ornelas, 27, was responding to the scene of a traffic collision on his departmental motorcycle when a motorist made an unsafe U-turn directly in front of him, causing a traffic collision. Ornelas was critically injured in the collision. He succumbed to his injuries on Dec. 2, 2020.

“Andy left behind so many friends and family members who loved and cared for him deeply,” Captain Eric Broneer, commander of the AV Area station, said at the private outdoor ceremony conducted at the AV CHP office at 2041 West Ave. I. “Andy’s smile and his friendly disposition made him one of those people you just wanted to be around.”

Shortly before the collision, Ornelas had been formally recognized for his outstanding efforts and dedication to serving the community.

“I was very proud of the fact that I selected Andy to be our officer of the quarter shortly before the collision,” Broneer said, adding that Ornelas was selected as the 2020 Officer of the Year by his peers.

Shortly after Ornelas was laid to rest, AV area CHP personnel formed a memorial committee to arrange private funding for a memorial. The goal was to have it completed by the one-year anniversary of Ornelas’ end-of-watch.

A large photo of a smiling Ornelas dressed in his CHP uniform with a blue bow tie stood on an easel on one side of the podium. In the parking lot were more photos, including a picture of Ornelas on his departmental motorcycle and a wedding picture of Ornelas and his wife Taylor that were set up in front of a row of CHP motorcycles.

Ornelas’ family members, including Taylor and brother Cody Ornelas, who is also a CHP officer, attended the ceremony along with other dignitaries from the CHP, Assemblyman Tom Lackey and state Sen. Scott Wilk; Palmdale Sheriff’s Station Capt. Ronald Shaffer; and Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist.

“This past year has been rough, more rough than I can even imagine,” Taylor said. “Throughout this process, I’ve discovered the true meaning of family, my family, my friends who have become family, and most importantly the CHP family who hasn’t left my side even when I probably pushed them away.”

Taylor thanked the AV CHP for the memorial.

“In my eyes, and I know in Cody’s eyes, Andy was a superhero and he will live on with us forever,” Taylor said. “This just shows that to anybody that walks through this office, it’s going to live on through them as well.”

CHP Officer Josh Wupperfeld, who served as chairman of the memorial committee, thanked Capt. Broneer for his support and the various donors who contributed to the memorial fund.

“This memorial means a great deal to all of our personnel in Antelope Valley CHP,” Wupperfeld said. “We wanted to build something worthy of Andy’s sacrifice, something to honor his family who he left behind, something to help us remember Andy every time we drive through this back gate.”

A plaque next to the memorial said it was made possible by donations from Designer’s Touch Landscaping, Maryann Paciullo, the California Staff of Assault Task Force, Red Lobster Hospitality LLC, and Joshua Memorial Park and Mortuary.

The base of the memorial is in the shape of a California Highway Patrol seven-point star. Each point represents a quality and trait that is expected of each person who wears one. Seven plants in each of the planters in the parking lot also represent each point of the star.

“As I list the traits each point represents, those of you who knew Andy well will understand why this symbol makes so much sense for this memorial,” Broneer said.

The points represent integrity, judgment, loyalty, courtesy, honor, knowledge and character.

The polished brown triangular memorial features a plaque telling Ornelas’ story. A brass nameplate affixed to the top of the memorial is a replica of the plate that is affixed to the California Highway Patrol memorial fountain in west Sacramento. It was made from the same piece of brass that  Ornelas’ academy nameplate was made from. Moving forward, the AV Area CHP will conduct a weekly ceremony to polish the brass plate as it is done at the academy, In addition, each year, on Dec. 2 the AV Area CHP will conduct an annual flag-lowering ceremony next to the memorial in Ornelas’ memory.

Lackey, a retired CHP officer, said the example and sacrifice that Ornelas made is not unnoticed.

“Above all, the greatest asset that anyone can have is a service heart,” Lackey said.

He added that when CHP officers are sworn in, they swear not to swerve from the path of death.

“If you need to give up your life, you swear that you would be willing to do it,” Lackey said. “Thankfully, very few have to do that. We’re here because Andy proved that he was wiling to do that and we will miss him.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.