In Los Angeles, there are cops - and then, as every television fan knows, there are motorcycle cops.
It all has something to do with the unofficial symbol of the City of Angels: the highway, the tie that binds, the catalyst of life.Officer Clarence W. Dean was a motorcycle cop. He rode the freeways, the boulevards, the side streets and the alleys, proudly sitting astride his thundering Kawasaki Police 1000, spiffily uniformed in a shiny white helmet, shiny black boots and, of course, shiny, inscrutable sunglasses.
Monday, Dean was buried. He was killed last Monday, the day of the great San Fernando Valley earthquake, in the kind of crash that is the lurking, distant fear, however improbable, of every Angeleno.
He was only one among more than 50 people to die in the quake and the only one to die as a result of a freeway collapse, but his death, and the widely distributed pictures resulting from it, will likely be among the most enduring images of the disaster.
While rounding a turn on a soaring overpass on Route 14 in the north end of the valley, Dean sailed off into space.
The 6.6 quake had collapsed a span in the overpass leading to Interstate 5. In the early morning darkness, while speeding to work after being awakened by the quake, Dean spotted the gap too late to stop and flew 75 feet through the air before crashing, 30 feet below, in a cascade of sparks and screaming metal.
He was 46, a veteran of 25 years in Motors, as officers call the motorcycle branch of the Los Angeles Police Department. He lived in Lancaster, north of the city, and worked out of the Van Nuys station in the valley.
At his burial service Monday, on a sunny cemetery hillside overlooking the city and highways he had patrolled, a Kawasaki Police 1000 was prominently parked next to members of Dean's family, among them his 23-year-old daughter, Traci, and his 25-year-old son, Guy. A shiny white helmet rested on the windscreen. A shiny black boot, turned backward, was afixed to each footrest.
The quarter-mile-long road leading from the prayer chapel to the grave site was lined with several hundred more Police 1000s. Their booted and helmeted riders, representing motorcycle departments from all over Southern California, stood row on row around the site, some unable to hide tears, even behind their inscrutable shades.
"Officer Clarence Wayne Dean loved his work," Officer Bill Harkness, his best friend, said in a eulogy. "He was not your typical hero, dying in a blazing shootout. But he died a hero just the same. He was on his way to help people. He gave his life for others."
Many of the officers at the service had been excused from duty only long enough to pay final respects to a colleague.
"We're all just devastated by this death," said Sgt. William Bowen. "I broke Clarence in on Motors. He was one of the happiest people about life I've ever seen. Now we've got to put him to rest and then return to that."