Slain Hayward officer honored at Oracle Arena memorial
Hayward police Sgt. Scott Lunger, who was slain during a traffic stop last week, was remembered at an emotional memorial service Thursday at Oracle Arena as a warrior and leader who was committed to protecting the public.
Speaking to more than 5,000 people, including thousands of police officers from the Bay Area and beyond, at the service at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, said:
“With Scott on the beat, crime found nowhere to hide.”
Referring to the 15 years that Lunger, 48, spent with the Hayward Police Department before he was fatally shot near Myrtle and Lion streets in Hayward at about 3:15 a.m. on July 22, Swalwell said, “For 15 years Hayward was safer” because of his police work.
Hayward police Chief Diane Urban praised what she said was Lunger’s:
“… commitment to excellence, his drive, his leadership, his can-do attitude. … He led from the front and was ethical, driven, funny and stubborn. … Scott personified the warrior spirit and was an example of how we should lead our lives every day.”
Speakers at the service, which was attended by Gov. Jerry Brown, Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other dignitaries, said Lunger was born in Hayward, raised in Dublin and worked as a union electrician for more than 10 years before deciding to go into law enforcement.
Urban said Lunger worked as a sheriff’s deputy in Contra Costa County for several years before joining the Hayward Police Department in May 2001.
She said he served in several important capacities, including as a member of the gang and SWAT team units and as a field training officer.
Acting Sgt. Brian Maloney, who served on the SWAT team with Lunger, said:
“I can’t put in words his tenacity and his passion for his work on the street.”
Officer Justin Green, who also served on the SWAT team with Lunger and was trained by him, tearfully described Lunger as:
“… my mentor, my sergeant, my brother. … I can only hope I’ve done him proud and I will honor him by continuing to be the warrior he was.”
Mark Estrada, a 21-year-old Oakland man, is charged with murder for allegedly shooting Lunger after the sergeant and another officer stopped his pickup truck for driving erratically.
Sgt. Phil Divinagracia said the reason that Lunger stopped the pickup truck is that it was “a threat to his flock.” Referring to Lunger’s actions, Divinagracia said, “He did what a sheep dog does, he died protecting his flock.”
Lunger’s family members said Lunger had spoken to them openly about the possibility of being killed on the job, even though the last time a Hayward police officer was killed in the line of duty was back in 1987.
Lunger’s father, Paul Lunger, said he was “a proud parent” when Lunger became a police officer but he also was mentally preparing himself for the day when his son would be killed.
Paul Lunger said that when he talked to his son about the possibility that he might get killed on the job:
“He said, ‘Dad, don’t worry, when it’s your time to go you can’t do a thing about it. It’s in God’s hands.'”
Saralyn Lunger, 19, who is one of Lunger’s two daughters and wore her father’s police uniform over her dress, said:
“My dad wasn’t afraid to die and said it’s part of life. … He showed us what it meant to be strong and his strength will always be with us.”
Ashton Lunger, 21, Lunger’s other daughter, said of her father:
“You always knew this was going to happen but you made sure my sister and I would be well taken care of. … Our time was far too short but the memories you gave me are irreplaceable.”
Lunger’s older brother, Mike Lunger, said since his brother’s death, he has heard many stories from Scott’s colleagues about how respected he was:
“They told me you were honest, compassionate, fearless, eager to serve other people.”
Lunger, who’s an electrician, as his father was, said Sgt. Lunger always looked up to him because he was the older brother.
But he said:
“The tables are turned now and it is your big brother who looks up to you.”
Paul Lunger said of his son:
“I want you to know the whole country knows about you now. You were and are our guardian angel.”
The thousands who attended the service cried during some of the speakers’ remarks but also laughed at some of the stories that were told, including Paul Lunger’s recollection that Scott was born “with some of the biggest ears I’ve ever seen” and that he and his wife wondered if Lunger “would walk or fly.”
Maloney said Lunger had “a knack for getting sayings wrong” and said fellow officers called his sayings “Lunger-isms.” Maloney also said colleagues referred to Lunger by a variety of nicknames, including Butter, Cornfed and Skippy Lunger.
After the service, Lunger’s body was taken to his final resting place in Brentwood, where he lived.