Statue honoring fallen Calif. corrections officer unveiled

Jose Rivera lost his life in the line of duty at the age of 22, when he was murdered by two inmates in 2008

By Shawn Jansen
The Fresno Bee

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. — Terry Rivera said when she first saw the bronze statue of her son Jose V. Rivera it took her breath away for a minute.

A large crowd of family, friends, co-workers, law enforcement and other first responders were on hand on Friday afternoon for the unveiling of the memorial statue of Jose V. Rivera in the newly built Jose V. Rivera Memorial Park located near United States Penitentiary Atwater.

Rivera was a correctional officer who lost his life in the line of duty at the age of 22, when he was murdered by two inmates on June 20, 2008.

Three days shy of the 14th anniversary of his death, many people gathered to see the new park and statue honoring Rivera’s memory and his legacy of making the ultimate sacrifice in service of his country.

“It makes me happy that his memory is going to be alive in this park for other people to see,” his mother Terry said.

Terry wiped away tears as the statue was unveiled. She then took photos with family standing next to it.

The bottom of the statue reads: “Gone too soon and forever missed. Loved and always in our hearts. Remembered yesterday, today and tomorrow. We love you Jose.”

“In law enforcement we face many challenges,” said Warden Bradley M. Tate. “Each day the gates close behind us and we walk boldly toward what many would turn and run from. This stands true in this profession as well as serving this great nation with our United States military in which Jose proudly served.”

The cost of the statue was $45,9000 and the funds were raised through donations.

Rivera graduated from Le Grand High School in 2003. According to his mom, he was a straight A student who played football, basketball and baseball.

He served four years in the United States Navy, serving two tours in Iraq.

He started his career as a correctional officer on Aug. 5, 2007 and less than 10 months later he was killed in the line of duty.

“It became obvious from (his youth into adulthood) that Jose was destined to be a protector,” said National Council President Shane Fausey.

“He protected his mother and his family with love and extreme dedication. He also protected our nation in as many times in Iraq. And on that fateful day, June 20, 2018, Officer Jose Rivera sacrificed his life protecting us from the evil that exists in our penitentiaries and prisons. He did so without hesitation.”

“I truly believe in that defining moment of his life he turned and faced evil head first just as the protector he always was.”

Tate said after Rivera’s death there were changes in rules and safety equipment for correctional officers. The Federal Bureau of Prisons instituted safety measures like requiring staff to wear protective vests, carry cans of pepper spray and man-down radios.

“I’m hear to tell you Jose’s life was not in vain and is valued beyond measure,” Tate said. “It provided us to receive support for things that now protect our staff. His sacrifice may have likely saved many lives and will do so going forward for years to come.”

Terry is happy with the park and statue, saying her son will truly never be forgotten.

“I want people to remember he was a caring person, he was also in the military for four years and did two tours in Iraq,” she said.

“He was a very friendly person and he’d do anything to help. He was always a helpful, loving person.”

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