Sacramento Police memorialize fallen officer Michael Gartrell 30 years after death

SACRAMENTO, Calif.  — The Sacramento Police Department memorialized one of their fallen officers, six-year department veteran Michael Gartrell, across the department’s social media platforms Sunday, which was the 30 year anniversary of his death. Gartrell died in the line of duty in 1991.

An obituary describes Gartrell as “more than a cop who loved the chase”, adding that he was remembered as hard-working, funny, and sensitive.

“He loved his job, the department, the chase,” said fellow Officer Steve Kiehn. “No matter what, he felt he was going to catch that guy. But what he loved more was his family,” he said.

At the age of 37, Gartrell died instantly while pursuing an alleged drunk driver. Gartrell’s vehicle slammed into a concrete abutment on Martin Luther King Boulevard and the Highway 99 overcrossing.

Gartrell’s pursuit lasted less than a mile, and began when the officer attempted to stop the suspect after he drove out of an apartment complex without his headlights on.

“From the time he started the pursuit and put out the call, we’re only talking seconds. Probably within a minute, he was in the collision,” CHP spokesman Rick Sullivan said. The suspect was later apprehended and charged with murder, felony drunk driving, evading arrest, and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

At Gartrell’s funeral, the crowd appeared to be a wave of blue and green – police uniforms. Law enforcement officers from 12 jurisdictions attended to pay their respects to the fallen officer.

At his funeral, Sacramento Police Officer Steve Reese said “On that morning, he could have let that car go, he could have closed his eyes. But he was not like that. He was a professional.”

Sgt. Larry Chavez, Gartrell’s old supervisor, described him as “very reliable and absolutely trustworthy.”

“He dealt with conflict really well. He helped iron things out.” Chavez said.

Gartrell joined the Sacramento Police Department in 1985 after serving as an officer in Hawaii. He rose through the ranks as both a reserve and community service officer before being promoted to the rank of police officer in 1988.

A bent pipe now marks the spot of Gartrell’s death at MLK Blvd and the Highway 99 Overcrossing, going towards Fruitridge Blvd.

“I think of you every time I cross that bridge which is nearly every day.” Sacramento resident Keith Grayson wrote in an online tribute. “Thank you for your service and ultimate sacrifice keeping the city of Sacramento a safer place to live, we are indebted to you.”

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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