Buried Together, SDPD Couple Mourned as ‘Top-Notch,’ ‘Salt of the Earth,’ ‘Noble’
At Tuesday’s memorial service for married San Diego police detectives Ryan Park and Jamie Huntley-Park, tearful tributes showed their compelling oneness.
“They were inseparable,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. “And when they weren’t together, they talked about each other.”
They fell in love together, worked together, died together — and were buried in one casket together.
“Together this duo could do anything,” Alex Morrison, one of the couple’s best friends, told mourners at Marantha Chapel in 4S Ranch. “They completed each other.”
Grieving family members and law enforcement colleagues gathered to bid farewell to the young couple who rose through the ranks of the San Diego Police Department to the post of detective together before losing their lives in a head-on I-5 crash June 4 near the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Ever since (the accident) … the outpouring of support has just been tremendous,” Nisleit told the mourners. “To Jamie and Ryan, you will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. Rest in peace, my friends. We’ll take it from here.”
Among the mourners were many dignitaries including San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, San Diego City Council members, the police chief and county Sheriff Bill Gore.
People who gave tributes to Jamie and then to Ryan used the adjectives “fearless,” “amazing,” “compassionate,” “loyal,” for her and “humble,” “tenacious” and “goofy” for him.
Together they were described as “noble,” “top notch,” and “salt of the earth.”
Their best qualities as detectives, a runner (him) and a hockey coach (her) were illustrated with superlatives.
Park was remembered as a Pokemon Go fan and lover of churros. Huntley-Park cared deeply about her San Diego Angels girls hockey team and yearned to officiate at the next Winter Olympics.
But their detective work was their serious sides and they were praised for their dedication to their jobs.
Detective Sgt. Geoff DeCesari told of how when Park responded to calendar invitations, he answered “tentative.”
DeCesari said he asked Park why he did that.
“Sarge, we’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” he quoted Park’s prophetic answer.
The training officer referred to Park as the “backbone of the team,” adding Park had a joke for everything.
DeCesari said the homicide division’s collective faith believe God placed the two detectives in harm’s way to protect the people behind them.
The fiery collision also killed the errant motorist, 58-year-old Sandra Daniels of Ramona. It was unclear how and why Daniels wound up driving on the wrong side of the freeway near Dairy Mart Road at speeds up to 90 mph, though her husband told the San Diego Union-Tribune in an interview six days later that his wife had diabetes and may have become disoriented behind the wheel due to low blood sugar.
Park and Huntley-Park — who were not on duty the day of the accident, but were following up on cases they were working on — had been married since 2016, having met while attending police academy four years earlier. They were hired at the same time in April 2012 and both earned the rank of detective in July 2018.
Park went on to work in the SDPD Homicide Unit, his wife in the SDPD Southern Division.
Huntley-Park grew up in La Jolla playing hockey, her father’s favorite sport.
“I still find this weird that a SoCal kid in La Jolla plays hockey. But you know what — she was really good,” Nisleit said.
Before she joined the police force, Huntley-Park played Division III hockey on a scholarship at Elmira College, a private school in New York state.
Nisleit said she was known as an enforcer on the ice who set the college’s record for penalty minutes in a season, to her father’s delight.
After her playing days, Huntley-Park became a hockey coach and referee, working numerous events in the latter role for USA Hockey, including an Olympic qualifier in Japan in 2017, two women’s world championships and two Four Nations Cup tournaments.
Before joining the SDPD, Park — a UCLA graduate who grew up in Los Angeles — conducted archeological field research in Cusco, Peru, the police chief told the gathering.
Park met Nisleit in 2013 as part of the SDPD’s team for the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, a 120-mile annual run from Southern California to Nevada.
In 2013 and 2014, Nisleit was Park’s commanding officer in the SDPD Western Division and ran with him after work several times.
“Ryan was a very gifted runner, but he was also a goofy runner,” Nisleit said. “(I) don’t mean any harm or foul by that, but if there was a puddle, Ryan would jump in it.”
Lt. Daniel Smith recalled how Park would stomp in puddles, skip and kick rocks while taking part in the 120-mile relay race, Baker to Vegas.
Park’s colleagues described him as a quirky, extremely funny co-worker whose endearing fondness for wisecracks and teasing was amply balanced by his dedication and a rare talent for cracking criminal cases.
DeCesari spoke of Parks’ relationship with his wife. He recalls Park working 27 straight hours yet wanting to spend time with Jamie rather than sleep.
SDPD homicide Detective Steven Choy, who went through police academy with the couple and was one of Park’s roommates at the time, told the gathering that “Ryan and Jamie represented the very best of us.”
“You both will be missed tremendously by your SDPD family,” he said.
Choy said Park was humble yet “eventually he showed us how smart and talented he was.”
The detective said Park didn’t know how or when to quit.
Following the memorial service, the large contingent of personnel from the San Diego Police Department and other agencies in attendance gathered in rows outside the church and stood at attention, saluting, as pallbearer officers brought out the couple’s American flag-draped double casket, led by a drum-and-bagpipe corps.
A law enforcement procession then accompanied the couple’s hearse to their final resting place at El Camino Memorial Cemetery in Sorrento Valley.
— City News Service contributed to this report.