As motorists drive within Santa Monica city limits on the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10), they may come across the name of a Santa Monica police officer who lost his life while serving in a different capacity.
Ricardo “Rick” A. Crocker was killed in combat at the age of 39 on May 26th, 2005 while serving his second tour of duty as a U.S. Marine in the Iraq War. The ten-year veteran officer of the Santa Monica Police Department and Torrance resident was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade during fighting in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq.
Nearly three years after his death, a sign has been placed on the Santa Monica Freeway in honor of the officer and soldier, dedicating a portion of the freeway as the “Ricardo A. Crocker Memorial Highway.” Those who knew Crocker say that motorists who drive past the freeway sign will see the name of a man who was committed to service, to both his community and his country.
“When people drive by the sign they will see not only the name of a national hero but of a life dedicated to service,” said Major Ezra Carbins of the Marines, who served with Crocker on his first tour in Iraq.
Crocker had served for over a year as a Marine Corps reservist on his first tour of duty in Iraq and after returning home he was redeployed to Iraq for a second tour.
As a captain in the Marines, Crocker was hired by the Santa Monica Police Department in July 1995, and he had since been promoted to the rank of major in the Marines.
Santa Monica Police Chief Tim Jackman, who took over the position of chief last year, said he did not have the opportunity to know Crocker, but during his time as police chief, he has learned a good deal about the veteran officer, particularly that he “touched many people’s lives.”
“Clearly he was a very special person,” Jackman said of the Santa Monica officer, who served in the uniform patrol and was a member of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.
“He was a consummate, caring professional who was admired and loved by everyone who had the opportunity to know him.”
Jackman noted that Crocker influenced lives not just in the Santa Monica Police Department but in the Police Activities League (PAL), where he served as a mentor, teacher and role model for community youths. Working with the Police Activities League as his last assignment, Crocker supervised enrichment classes, taught standardized testing preparation classes and even took the youths on hiking trips.
The director of the PAL said at the time of Crocker’s death that he had a very special relationship with the youths who participated in the program.
As a tribute to Crocker’s connection to the Police Activities League, the dedication ceremony for the memorial highway sign was held Friday, March 7th, at the program’s facility. Santa Monica police, city officials, U.S. Marines and members of Crocker’s family were among those who attended the dedication ceremony, where a replica of the sign was unveiled.
The event was also attended by State Senator Sheila Kuehl, who had introduced the resolution to name a section of the freeway in honor of Crocker. The sign, which is between the Centinela Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard exits, was placed on the freeway in late January.
When Carbins thinks back to his service with Crocker, he is reminded of someone who always remained positive and always looked out for people with less opportunity. Crocker’s ability to relate to people was “phenomenal,” Carbins remembered.
“He was definitely a great man and this honor is fitting for his memory,” Carbins said, referring to the memorial sign.
Crocker’s mother, Jeanette, said she did not see the loss of her son’s life as a “personal attack,” and that has helped her cope with his death over the years. Expressing appreciation for her son’s service, Jeanette Crocker pointed to both the police and Marine uniforms and said she was “proud of those uniforms.”
Crocker’s brother, Carlos, called the memorial sign tribute for the fallen soldier a “great honor,” adding, “I’m glad he’ll be remembered by those who knew him and those who didn’t.”