Sgt. Dominic Vaca was killed by a fleeing motorcyclist on Memorial Day 2021. Photo courtesy of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. Composite by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.
A sheriff’s deputy in San Bernardino County, California, was killed during a shootout on Memorial Day following a traffic chase in Yucca Valley, near Joshua Tree National Park.
Sgt. Dominic Vaca, 43, was a 17-year veteran of the department. He was killed when a motorcyclist deputies had been chasing fled on foot and shot at Vaca, who was in pursuit. The shooter was killed by other deputies.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department released a video of an official procession for Vaca, in which an honor guard of seven deputies transport Vaca’s body, covered in a flag, out of a hospital, past quiet hospital staff members, and then past dozens of saluting deputies and police.
“The gunshot wound he sustained earlier today was too severe for him to overcome,” Sheriff John McMahon said in a video released on Facebook. “Our prayers are with him and his family as we all mourn this difficult time.”
Vaca was one of several deputies with the Morongo Basin Station who were patrolling a local off-roading spot when they saw a man riding a motorcycle without a license plate. The man sped away when approached, leading to a chase that ended in the shootout.
The sheriff’s department has not identified the shooter. The Special Investigations Unit is investigating the scene, according to a department Facebook post.
Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.
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