Ira Gabor Essoe Jr., Fallen Officer Remembered 30 Years After He Was Shot

The memorial service for Sgt. Ira Essoe fills the Saddleback Church worship sanctuary.
The memorial service for Sgt. Ira Essoe fills the Saddleback Church worship sanctuary.
Photo by John Gilhooley

Sadly, memorial services for officers killed in the line of duty are not unusual, but yesterday's at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest for Orange County Sheriff's Sgt. Ira Gabor Essoe Jr. did have a 30-year-old twist.

That's how long ago Essoe was shot, on Nov. 6, 1980.

His injuries left him paralyzed, and his wife Ramona Essoe cared for him for the next 29 1/2 years of his life as he never fully recovered.

Sergeant Essoe's Feb. 4 passing was determined to be a death in the line of duty because, as a department spokesman explained to the Weekly, he died as a result of the shooting. 

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It was also a hero's memorial. Essoe was trying to rescue his partner from three armed men in the act of stealing a car when he was shot.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens earlier this month presented Ramona Essoe with the Department's Purple Heart at the annual Medal of Valor.

But Ira Essoe's eulogy at Saddleback was delivered by another sheriff, Brad Gates, who led the Orange County office at the time of the shooting.

In the pews to hear Gates' tearful address were Hutchens, her command staff, hundreds of active and retired sheriff's deputies and relatives and friends of Essoe.

The service concluded with gun salutes, a riderless horse and five helicopters from the Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach police departments flying overhead in a missing-man formation.

Essoe is the ninth deputy from the department to die in the line of duty.


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