Detective Ryan Park and Detective Jaime Huntley-Park, who married four years after meeting in the police academy, were killed Friday in head-on crash.
Ryan Park and Jaime Huntley met and began dating while in the San Diego police academy in 2012.
They became officers on the same day in April of that year, married in February 2016 and were promoted to be detectives on the same day two years later.
On Friday morning, the two of them were scheduled to be off work, but were working “follow up on cases” anyway, San Diego police Chief David Nisleit said. As they drove in an unmarked department sedan south on Interstate 5 in San Ysidro, a wrong-way driver slammed into their car.
The couple and the other driver died at the scene of the fiery crash, which happened about 10:25 a.m. on I-5 near state Route 905.
“You couldn’t have met two nicer kids,” Nisleit said at a Friday night news conference at downtown police headquarters. "(They) had nothing but their lives ahead of them. Both their lives and their careers were definitely on a very, very rapid trend upward, just doing amazing work.”
Huntley-Park, 33, grew up in the San Diego area and graduated from La Jolla High School, according to Nisleit. She played college hockey in New York before becoming a coach and a referee with a goal of refereeing at the next winter Olympics after just missing out on that chance in 2018.
Park, 32, was one of Nisleit’s patrol officers when the chief was captain of the Western Division. Park was “a remarkable patrol officer who quickly (ascended) the ranks and became a homicide detective,” according to Nisleit.
“When the San Diego Police Department loses two members, it hurts,” Nisleit said. “It hurts the department, it hurts the community, it hurts the city.”
The couple did not have children, said Nisleit, who visited the crash scene Friday before spending the rest of his day, along with a department chaplain, informing the couple’s family members of their deaths. Nisleit spoke in person to Huntley-Park’s parents and one of Park’s brothers, he said.
Mayor Todd Gloria offered his condolences to the couple’s families as he described the call from Nisleit Friday morning informing him of the crash. He described it as “the call a mayor never wants to get.”
Gloria said about 11,000 people work for the city of San Diego, and “Jaime and Ryan were two of our best, and we lost them today, and that breaks our hearts.”
Gloria also praised San Diego firefighters and California Highway Patrol officers who responded to the scene.
“What I saw on the freeway today was an expression of the honor that we give to fellow public servants,” Gloria said. “Treating them with the dignity that they deserve.”
Earlier Friday night, as the sun set, the Rev. Shane Harris, president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, and Bishop Cornelius Bowser, pastor of Charity Apostolic Church of San Diego, went to police headquarters in downtown San Diego to hold a small ceremony near a memorial for the city’s fallen officers.
Both men are often critical of the Police Department. Bowser said it’s because “we hold them accountable ... but it’s not because we see them as the enemy. They are part of our community and we love them. And they’re humans, but also many of them are our friends.”
Harris and Bowser lit candles that they placed at the foot of the memorial, then stood in silence saluting the newest fallen officers, whose names they did not yet know.
“It’s about humanity,” Harris said. “People have lost their loved ones, people have lost their lives, and you have to see the humanity beyond the issues of the day ... We can get through this together if we show dignity, humanity and respect for the families who have lost their loves ones, and if we try to support them however we can.”
Park and Huntley-Park were the second and third San Diego officers to die while on duty this year. In February, patrol Officer David Sisto, 39, experienced a medical emergency while responding to a call and died later at a hospital.
In 2019, Huntley-Park was featured in a segment on what was then Fox Sports San Diego, highlighting her work coaching a San Diego Jr. Gulls hockey team and refereeing for the sport she’d grown up playing. She went on to play at Elmira College in New York, where she was the team’s enforcer.
“Second all-time (in school history in penalty minutes), and I definitely have the record for one season,” she said with a smile in the video under which mourners left messages of condolences Friday in the comments section.
According to that segment and a 2019 article on usahockey.com, Huntley-Park just missed the cut to make it to the 2018 Olympic Winter games in Pyeongchang as a women’s hockey referee. But she had her sights set on the 2022 games.
“She’s in a very good position for this next quad moving into 2022 in Beijing,” USA Hockey’s director of the officiating education program said in the article.
“My goal is to make 2022,” Huntley-Park told Fox Sports San Diego. “I don’t want that disappointing email and notification again of not making it.”
She said her husband and the Police Department supported her hockey work.
Nisleit said Park and Huntley-Park were “beloved by their colleagues.”
“They’re special people,” the chief said. “It takes a special breed to want to put yourself in harm’s way, to work for the community, to provide that public safety. And to lose two in one incident, it’s hard.”