Officer Earl Scott's presence still is keenly felt at the California Highway Patrol's Modesto office, 4½ years after he was murdered during an early morning traffic stop.
His locker is gone. But a pair of Scott's white LA Gear sneakers and a 12-ounce can of Dr Pepper and a pack of Marlboro Lights -- his favorites -- fill the space, along with photos of the patrolman.
A cross bearing his name is planted in a green patch in the patio and a plaque honoring Scott sits in front of the Kiernan Avenue office by the flagpoles. In the spring, officers held the second Earl Scott Memorial Golf Classic in Manteca to raise money for charity.
Officer John Martinez has continued his twice- daily ritual of saluting Scott's plaque after he raises and lowers the U.S., state and CHP flags at the beginning and end of the workday.
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"Virtually every room in this office has some sort of memorial to Earl Scott," said Capt. Lenley Duncan, commander of the Modesto office.
Duncan was among the dozen or so CHP officers in court Monday to hear Columbus Allen Jr. II admit that he shot and killed Scott during a traffic stop on Highway 99 near Salida on Feb. 17, 2006.
Loss hurt so many
"It provided closure for everyone involved, for Earl's family, for the CHP, and I'm sure to some extent for Allen's family," Duncan said.
"But the whole situation is tragic. On the day of the incident -- Columbus Allen killed Earl Scott -- he just didn't victimize Earl Scott. He victimized Earl Scott's family, friends, co-workers. He victimized society as a whole, and his own family."
Scott, 36, came from a family of CHP officers. He was two days short of his fifth anniversary with the CHP when he was killed.
"He was just a great guy," said CHP officer Eldon Sousa, who has worked at the Modesto office for 20 years and was in court Monday. "Everyone who knew Earl instantly became a friend. He was truly one of the best people I ever met."
There have been 220 CHP officers who have died in the line of duty since the agency's inception in 1929. The majority of those deaths were from traffic accidents. Scott was the 39th officer to be shot to death while on duty.
Sousa said the Modesto office lost its sense of innocence with Scott's murder. The two other Modesto CHP officers killed in the line of duty died in traffic wrecks.
"This was a senseless crime," Sousa said. "This job has its rewards, but the charm of the job lost some of its luster."
Scott's picture is included in the roster of photos of the officers and other personnel assigned to the Modesto office. But unlike the other photos, Scott's has a strip of black mourning cloth diagonally crossing it.
Underlines the danger
The photo serves to keep Scott's memory alive but also as a warning of the hazards of the job.
Duncan said he does a one-hour orientation when a new officer joins the Modesto office. During his talk, Duncan emphasizes the need for putting safety first in all situations, even routine ones such as traffic stops.
His officers are instructed to help other officers -- including those with neighboring agencies such as Modesto police -- during traffic stops if time permits, even if the other officer indicates that the call is routine and no help is needed.
"It was a stable situation for Earl Scott right until the time he was killed," Duncan said.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2316.