Former police officer lived adventurous life, dabbled in art
Leslie “Les” Ginn played the role of a hit man for hire, helped start a police department horse patrol and rescued a would-be jumper from a downtown hotel despite his unease with heights during his years with the San Diego Police Department.
Although his adventures and responsibilities were all part of the life of a police officer, it was quite a different path than what he had envisioned when he got out of the Navy in the 1950s.
The Indiana native had artistic ambitions when he entered the San Diego Police Academy. He intended to work on the force for about a year to earn some money and prove to his buddies he could do it. Instead, he got hooked on police work and served as a beat cop on Broadway and Logan Heights, did undercover work and played a role in starting the Metro Arson Strike Force.
He eventually found time to dabble in painting during his law-enforcement career, but he was able to devote more time to his passion for the arts after retiring to Julian about 15 years ago.
Mr. Ginn died of lung cancer and complications caused by shingles June 14. He was 78.
Friends and colleagues said he was kind, outgoing and a good leader. “He was a good cop with a good sense of humor,” said Nate Kaufman, who was in the same police academy class as Mr. Ginn. “He was a multifaceted, interesting person. He looked like a real rough, tough, grizzly guy, and he was when he had to be but he was also a really nice guy.”
In addition to painting, Mr. Ginn enjoyed surfing, sailing, playing soccer and softball and writing. “He was always doing something or learning to do something new,” Kaufman said.
He was proud of his Irish heritage and helped form the first contingent of officers to march in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He played the bagpipes and the banjo and took flying lessons at 73, said his wife, Judy Ginn. “He was just an intriguing individual. There was never a boring minute with him.”
In a 1985 interview with The Tribune, Mr. Ginn said he was among the department’s first undercover officers. They were known as “dirties,” he said, “you know, the casual look instead of the snap-brim hat, coat and tie of the early 1960s.”
In one case, Mr. Ginn pretended to be a hit man when a woman was seeking someone to kill her husband. He worked in several police units, including criminal intelligence, homicide and internal affairs.
As the chief of police in Calexico, one of his high-profile cases was the 1990 shooting of a Mexican youth by a Border Patrol agent.
After retiring, Mr. Ginn and his wife moved to Julian, where they were active with the Julian Arts Guild. Kiki Harris, president of the arts guild, said Mr. Ginn specialized in “lively, humorous paintings” that often featured cowboys or mystical figures. Mr. Ginn also drew cartoons that were published in the Julian News.
He was born Jan. 29, 1932, in Indianapolis, Ind., and was raised by a single mother. He attended Ball State University and served in the Navy from 1951 to 1955. He was married to his first wife, Virginia, for about 25 years. He married the former Judy O’Toole Laird in 1984.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Ginn is survived by a sister, Elizabeth of Muncie, Ind.; a stepgranddaughter and a nephew.