WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- The single toll of a bell Thursday marked what the California Highway Patrol calls "the end of shift" for Officer Kenyon Youngstrom, killed in the line of duty in the East Bay. He was taken off life support Wednesday after suffering a gunshot wound to the head, but his commitment to serving the community lives on as his death gives others a chance at life.
There was an overwhelming show of support Thursday from people who didn't even know Officer Youngstrom but wanted his family and colleagues to know how much they appreciate his ultimate sacrifice.
It wasn't the way California highway patrolmen wanted to begin their day at the Contra Costa County office in Martinez, raising the flag as they do everyday, then lowering it to half-staff for their fallen brother. An outpouring of community support soon followed and continued throughout the morning and all day. "You know, we just don't understand why these things happen. We all want to go home at the end of the day and we want to go home safe and unfortunately, he doesn't get to do that," said Martinez resident Mike Reichmuth.
"We just wanted to bring these balloons to show our support," Dana Scudder told ABC7 News. She and Kelly Jones did not know Officer Youngstrom. "The officers are out there serving us and protecting us at all times for our safety and this officer was injured and killed by a senseless act," Scudder said. "I drive down the road that way every day and I got caught in the traffic when it first happened. It happened right in front of me and every day now, I drive that way and it just happens again and again in my brain," Jones said. Tthe impact of Youngstrom's death reaches far and wide. As a registered organ and tissue donor, he has the potential to help save more than 50 lives. "We can impact as many as eight lives from organs and more than 50 lives from tissue. So, the organs that we can transplant are hearts, livers, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, and we can actually split livers into two on occasion, for very young, healthy donors. We can split the liver and give a segment each to two different individuals," explained Dr. Nikole Neidlinger with the California Transplant Donor Network.
Youngstrom's organs will be recovered within the next 24 hours. Recipients and their families will be notified that the officer's gift will give them life. The Youngstrom family issued a statement Thursday regarding the officer's organ donation saying, "Kenyon was always giving to others and serving others as a CHP officer and in his life with us. Our grief is overwhelming. But in his special way, Kenyon carries on in helping others."
"Those who knew him would not be surprised to learn that Kenyon chose to register as an organ and tissue donor. When Kenyon graduated from the police academy, he was told his job was to save a life. He does so now through his decision," it continued. "Through this gift, he will save the lives of those who need transplants as well as potentially improve the lives of many. This was our Kenyon. He's our hero and in the midst of our grief, we are comforted to know he continues to help others."
Dozens of people turned out for a private ceremony to honor Youngstrom at the CHP academy. The bell-ringing memorial tribute gives the CHP officers and cadets a chance to pay respects to their fallen brother. Youngstrom is the 223rd CHP officer to be killed in the line of duty since 1929.
"Officer Youngstrom joins an elite group of heroes who have sacrificed their lives for the premise of safety, service, and security. We thank him for his loyal and dedicated service and his family for their ultimate sacrifice," a speaker said.
A trust fund has been set up for Officer Youngstrom's family. Donors can go to any Wells Fargo branch in the Bay Area, mention his name to the teller, and ask that their donation be placed in the trust account in his name. There's also an ongoing movement on Facebook to rename the stretch of Interstate 680 where Youngstrom was killed in his name.
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