Almost 200 people crowded together at Stevenson Hall’s courtyard Friday, in a memorial to honor the loss of a Sonoma State University student’s father, a sheriff’s deputy who was fatally struck by a drunk driver.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Eugene Kostiuchenk, stepfather of student Justin Kelley, lost his life Tuesday, Oct. 28 in the line of duty.
A drunk driver struck Kostiuchenk while he returned to his vehicle after a routine stop early morning on Tuesday.
Shortly afterwards, the driver crashed and was arrested and charged for driving under the influence, and hit-and-run.
“Just as friends of Justin, we wanted to illustrate our commitment to him,” said Adam Rosenkranz, chief financial officer of Associated Students. “Regardless of any distance that we may be separated by, we are all in this together and being a part of a fraternity and a brotherhood is more than being one another’s friends”.
Kelley was home with his family during the time of the memorial at Sonoma State.
“[At] the end of the day, regardless of fraternity, he’s just one of my friends and I care more about this kid then he would ever know,” said Rosenkranz “People from the police department, fire department; countless people have never met Eugene but they are all affected by this and I think this shows a lot about our character as Sonoma State students.”
Rosenkranz lead the memorial by reading Kostiuchenk’s obituary, and saying some words before handing it off to students in the crowd to speak.
“I really appreciate seeing all the people out here for the vigil. It represents the kind of connection that we have, even if it’s not direct,” said Pedro Cortez, member of the fraternity Phi Delta Theta. “It’s nice to see everyone out here to support Justin, and the passing of his father.”
Members of the entire Greek community at Sonoma State came to show their support as well.
“In honor of Justin and his stepfather, I pledged sobriety for the entire weekend,” said Celia Walker, member of Alpha Xi Delta Sorority. “I encourage some of you to try and do the same the last thing we need is another tragedy.”
Students were seen wearing black and blue ribbons as a way to show a tribute to mourning.
“The reason we do what we do with the tribute of mourning on our badges is that the ribbon covers the eyes of Justice, so Justice doesn’t see a fallen officer,” said Andrew Barclay, public information officer of the California Highway Patrol. “Ultimately, it is an outward expression to the public to show us mourning a loss of a brother.”
Twenty-eight people die everyday in America from drunk driving crashes, found in data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s fatality analysis system from 2013.
Kostiuchenk is just one of four law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty during October in California alone.
“It happens too often and it’s always tough,” said Barclay, “especially in this situation where the deputy was hit and killed by drunk driver. It’s something we go out and try to stop all the time.”
Throughout the month of October, California lost a total of four law enforcement officers from Ventura, Placer, Pomona and Sacramento counties.
Those fallen officers include, Kostiuchenk as well as Police Officer Shaun Richard Diamond of Pomona County, Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Investigator Michael David Davis Jr. of Placer County.
For more information on fallen officers in the United States, people can visit odmp.org and contribute to Kostiuchenk’s online guest book.