Remembering Fallen San Jose Police Officer Henry Bunch

Today we remember fallen San Jose police officer Henry Bunch. On July 29, 1985, 33-year-old Officer Bunch was killed when an intoxicated arrestee wrestled his gun away and shot him. 

Below is the department’s official account of his story.

S.J. Policeman's Funeral says. 'His Death Mattered'

By H. Bruce Miller

It was a fresh, pretty day. A good day to be alive.

A light breeze was blowing across the valley, pushing the cotton-ball clouds around and sweeping the hills clear of smog. The morning sun poured down, washed over houses and parks and orchards, glinted on the silver shields on the hats of the police standing in long rows of six deep, shone on the chrome of the black limousines.

They buried Henry Irven Bunch on Thursday morning with flag-draped coffin, motorcycle escort, white-gloved honor guard.

The mayor and the chief of police and members of the city council were there. So were more than a thousand cops from all over California and beyond.

Highway Patrol troopers in boots and helmets. Undercover narcs looking out of place in shoulder-length hair and scruffy beards. Park rangers and sheriff's deputies and FBI agents and airport police. Cops from Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Los Gatos, Daly City, Foster City, San Mateo, Reno Fresno. From the big towns like Oakland and San Francisco and the little towns like Atherton, Seaside, Capitola, Morgan Hill, Pacifica.


The official phrase is "killed in the line of duty." Three days earlier, Henry Bunch and his partner had picked up a 42-year-old transient and chronic loser named Robert Baltazar Ordonez and brought him in on suspicion of drunken driving. While Bunch was getting ready to give him a breath test, Ordonez grabbed the cop's gun and shot him in the head.

Ordonez, who police think might have been freaking out on PCP, was shot to death seconds later while struggling with Bunch's partner, Richard Bridges.

As the cops and the other mourners filed into the First Baptist Church, a pianist played the soft, comforting old hymns. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, just a closer walk with thee.

The preacher read Psalm 130:,"From the depths of my despair I call to you, oh Lord . . . " He spoke of the solace that comes with acceptance, with no longer trying to understand why.

One of Bunch's fellow San Jose cops, Dan Lezotte, tried to tell what kind of man Bunch had been.

He disliked criminals, the Supreme Court, left-wingers, dope dealers. He was addicted to "gut-bombs," which was his name for doughnuts. He loved Elvis Presley, pizza, fishing, Ronald Reagan, his family, John Wayne, America and being a cop.

He was a father, a brother, a son, a husband, a college graduate, a staunch Republican, a student of political history and constitutional law, a good cop and a good friend. He was 33 years, six months and 22 days old.

"If you look for a reason for his death, you won't find one," Lezotte said.

Standing outside the church before the service, a stocky cop with a black beard and sunglasses had expressed it with an eloquence not learned from any pulpit.

"Aw, sh_ _- what a waste," he said.

Robert Baltazar Ordonez, the man who killed Henry Bunch, is being buried today in Oxnard, where they shipped his body after the county medical examiner up here was finished with it.

There will be no honor guard or buglers playing taps. Yet his death was also senseless, also a waste.

They say funerals are for the living. If that's so, maybe there should be a funeral as impressive as Henry Bunch's every time somebody is killed needlessly and senselessly. Some ceremony that says, "Hey, something important happened here. This was a person. He had a life, plans, hopes, and now that's gone. His life mattered. His death mattered."

When the service was over, they opened the top of Henry Bunch's coffin and a thousand police filed past, each one pausing to salute. Each face was different, each gesture was different men, women, black cops, white cops, Asian cops, Hispanic cops who made the sign of the cross.

Then the honor guard formed a double line and the pallbearers carried Henry Bunch's coffin out of the church for the trip to the cemetery, passing long files of blue-shirted cops standing at attention.

The noon sun was bright, but the air was still fresh and soft. It was a good day to be alive.