The Oceanside Police Department and the City of Oceanside have dedicated a memorial bridge to a local police officer who died in the line of duty six years ago.
On Friday evening a memorial bridge dedication ceremony was held at the Pacific Street Bridge, near the intersection of North Coast Village Bay and North Pacific Street, in honor of fallen Oceanside police Officer Dan Bessant, who was killed during a routine traffic stop near Camp Pendleton on December 20, 2006.
Taeotui was just 16 years old at the time of Officer Bessant’s murder, while Gaono was 17. The teens, who were playing basketball, drinking and messing around with guns before the shooting, were ultimately tried and found guilty of killing the officer.
Taeotui was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in late 2008 and early 2009, respectively, for his role in the crime.
Gaono, whom prosecutors said fired the fatal shot that actually killed Bessant, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2009.
During Gaono’s trial, jurors listened to portions of interrogation tapes where Gaono admitted to shooting Bessant using a rifle with a scope.
Authorities concluded the killing was done for no other reason than it presented a chance for young, documented gang members to gain respect, however warped, for shooting at police.
Steve Bessant, Officer Bessant’s father, was present at both trials. In emotional courtroom moments, he told both Taeotui and Gaono that he forgave them for killing his son before asking the judge to hand down the maximum penalty for both.
Officer Bessant had served with the Oceanside Police Department for six years at the time of his fatal shooting. He left behind a wife, Katelyn, and a son, Wyatt, who was two-months-old when his father was killed.
On Friday, nearly 100 Oceanside police officers, city leaders and Officer Bessant’s family gathered to witness the bridge dedication ceremony. Officer Bessant’s son, who’s now seven years old, was among those present at the event.
The fallen officer’s father and son stood side by side as the Oceanside bridge was officially dedicated to the man they’ll miss forever.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘Danny would love this,’” the officer’s father, Steven, told NBC 7. “I think of Dan every day. I have memories. Some days random memories come to your head; you remember great things.”
Bessant’s wife was in attendance as well.
Oceanside police say the bridge is a fitting way to forever pay tribute to their fallen colleague.
“We remember the sacrifice that Dan made to this community,” said Capt. Tom Aguigui of the Oceanside Police Department. “We feel the loss every day, but to honor Dan we must maintain the standard he did while he was alive.”
What means the most to the fallen officer’s family, though, is never forgetting his legacy.
“Nobody has let down their love and support since we lost Dan,” added Steve.