Retired San Diego Police Officer Jesse Navarro lost not one, but three fellow police officers he considered close friends, even family.
In 1978, his partner Archie Buggs was gunned down execution style. A year later, his trainee was killed, and after that a DUI driver killed a close friend he had convinced to join the Department.
The survivors guilt, he said, was at times unbearable.
“I told myself we were always together protecting each other. I should’ve been able to do something, get there sooner,” Navarro said Thursday in an interview at his partner’s grave at Greenwood Cemetery.
When Navarro learned last week that two San Diego officers had been shot and one died, the memories from nearly 40 years ago flooded in.
“I actually pulled over and stopped and started listening to the news,” he recalled.
Navarro said he remembered the years of guilt he felt and the more than 30 decades it took for him to verbalize his experience. He imagines Officer Irwin is feeling similar emotions.
“Could I have gotten there closer? 30 minutes before even? 20 could’ve made everything different,” he described.
Navarro urges Officer Irwin and all other officers impacted to lean on family and remind themselves: It wasn’t their fault.
“There was not much you could do. There wasn’t much you could change,” he emphasized. “[The community] should do whatever possible to sincerely tell him, ‘You didn’t do anything wrong.’”
Navarro admits he still struggles, and when a police officer dies, he still cries. That’s when he finds himself at Greenwood Cemetery in Bonita where his former partner is buried.
As our interview concluded, he left a flag near the grave for the fallen – all of them. He says it is important we make sure none of them are forgotten.