OCEANSIDE — A ceremony will be held March 8 to unveil memorial plaques on the north and south side of the Harbor Bridge to honor fallen Oceanside Police Officer Dan Bessant who died in the line of duty Dec. 20, 2006.
Bessant grew up in Oceanside. Friends say he always had his eye on serving on the police force. He served as an Explorer candidate in 2000, and then was hired as a community service officer in 2002 at age 18.
Bessant became a sworn officer in April 2006. He served on the neighborhood policing team in the Camp Pendleton back gate area.
“It was what he wanted to do forever,” Lt. Karen Laser said. “It was where his heart was.”
On Dec. 20, 2006, he was covering another officer and was ambushed by gang members that shot him from their house, which was a block away.
“They were very accurate,” Laser said. “He never saw it coming.”
Bessant was very active in the back gate area working to clean up gang activity. It was not determined if the shooters targeted him.
Bessant left behind a wife, a child and parents who all live in Oceanside.
In addition to a multiple agency investigation into the shooting, the city also took action to help residents in the area by unifying community support services. Churches, nonprofits, schools and city services came together in roundtable discussions and continue to meet.
“We tried to get everyone under the same umbrella,” Mayor Jim Wood said. “We wanted find out what we could do to help the community and neighborhood.”
The bridge dedication will be an opportunity to remember Bessant, honor him for his service, and remember all officers who died in the line of duty.
“He was very well liked,” Laser said. “A gregarious and funny guy.”
“I first knew him when he became a blue shirt (community service officer),” Wood said. “He was easy to get along with. He had a nice personality.”
Another honor Bessant received was the Oceanside Explorers took on post number 285, which was his badge number.
The bridge dedication will be held on the south side of Harbor Bridge at 5 p.m. March 8.