Mourners including California Gov. Jerry Brown and Congressman Jeff Denham packed Cross Point Church in downtown Modesto yesterday to honor Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Wallace, 53, who was shot and killed during a Sunday, Nov. 13 traffic stop at Fox Grove Fishing Access near Hughson, his hometown.
"Dennis was a hero to many - compassionate in his service and dedicated in his profession," said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. "Dennis wore his badge with pride, loved his job and loved serving the community. Time will heal our pin, but we will never forget Dennis and his sacrifice."
The service for Wallace was complete with the full regalia of a fallen law enforcement member, including a bagpipe band, an honor guard, a procession of law enforcement vehicles that stretched for miles, and people all along the route waving flags and showing their support for Wallace and the sadness they feel for his loss.
Following the 11 a.m. church service there was a long procession of law enforcement officials from downtown Modesto down Mitchell Road, east onto Hatch Road, and south on Faith Home Road. The funeral procession wound its way onto eastbound Whitmore Avenue and into Hughson, rolling past Hughson Elementary School, tuning left onto Euclid Avenue, left onto Fox Road, left onto 7th Street, right onto Hughson Avenue and right onto Santa Fe Avenue, ending at Lakewood Memorial Park.
Modesto Police Officer Jeff Harmon gave invocation and spoke about Wallace as one who "lived life in the moment and brought joy to many."
The service included accolades for the fallen deputy, including from Congressman Denham.
"This is a tragedy that has shaken our community to its core and it's a tragedy we see happening across our country," said Rep. Denham. He offered his reassurance to the men and women who daily put on a badge "of our faith and gratitude."
"Deputy Wallace embodied the bravery, the passion and ultimately the sacrifice that makes the best peace officers," said Denham. "God bless him and those who are willing to put their lives on the line for our community each and every day."
Family friend George Carr of Hughson spoke glowingly of a community servant who was driven out of Christian service.
"Dennis was the do-anything, help anyone, get-the-job done kind of person," said Carr. He recounted how Wallace helped to start Hughson Youth Soccer League and develop fields in Hughson, worked at pancake breakfasts and refereed youth high school and youth football games. Wallace also participated in events like Love Hughson and Hughson Trunk or Treat. For the Hughson National Night Out event, Carr said Wallace had talked the city of Hughson to put together a caravan to go from block party to block party to help give kids a positive contact with police and firefighters.
Carr remembered that Dennis often helped with homeless persons and would often get help for the Family Resource Center in Hughson rather than arrest them.
It was not uncommon, said Carr, for Dennis to stop his patrol car and often quietly counsel youth when he saw them doing something wrong with the two parting and "smiling and waving at one another."
"Dennis always showed our youth how to improve their self-confidence and boost their morale."
Modesto Police Detective Dave Wallace, Dennis' younger brother, grew emotional when he was handed the badge worn by Dennis when he was killed. He later recounted how their father, 27-year law enforcement veteran Dennis Taylor Wallace, was killed in an accident. Their father was "the driving reason to help others."
"Dennis loved being a police officer and was a natural with kids," said Dave Wallace. Dennis and his wife Mercedes were unable to have children of their own but Dave said his brother "poured himself into the lives of kids."
Jacob Wallace, his nephew, said his uncle had left him and his cousins with an example of a life well-lived.
"The time to honor him is not limited to today," Jacob Wallace said. "We will honor him with the rest of our lives. We will honor him by carrying on and being the best that we can be throughout our lives."
Dennis Randall Wallace was born in Ceres in May 1963 and graduated from Downey High School in Modesto. His pastor said Dennis accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior as a junior and exhibited a selfless life of Christian service. In 1997 Wallace became a Sheriff's deputy, starting out in patrol and becoming a DARE officer in 1999. He spent much of his time serving on the Dena Boer Elementary School campus in Salida where he was often seen engaging in a quick game of soccer or shoot hoops.
Days after Wallace was gunned, his accused killer made his first court appearance to enter a not guilty plea to all the charges against him. David Machado, 37, of Keyes, is charged with murder with a special circumstance of killing a peace officer. The charge also carries two enhancements - one for acting with premeditation and the other for using a firearm. Machado is also charged with robbery in the first degree with an enhancement of using a firearm, felony carjacking with an enhancement of using a firearm, and a felony charge of being a felon in possession of a gun. All the charges carry an additional enhancement in that Machado was out on bail for a previous charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Given the murder charge with the special circumstance, Machado could possibly be facing the death penalty. Deputy District Attorney John Mayne, who is prosecuting the case for the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office, said the decision has not been made at this time on whether or not they will be seeking the death penalty.
The district attorney's office requested Machado be held without bail for the murder and the other charges and his public defenders submitted to the request.
Machado entered the courtroom Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 15 wearing a red and white striped jail uniform and shackles around his ankles and hands. Once seated, Machado turned to look at his two family members in the front row of the courtroom galley. He was told to turn back around and face front, to which Machado replied: "You don't want them to see what you done to me."
There didn't appear to be any marks or bruises on Machado's face. He is currently being held at the Stanislaus County Jail, but the sheriff could decide to have him housed at another county's jail facility if the need arises, said district attorney's office spokesperson John Goold.
Machado told Judge Thomas Zeff that he had no money to hire an attorney, so the judge appointed two attorneys from the Stanislaus County Public Defender's Office to his defense.
The defense attorneys and Machado left the courtroom to have a private discussion and the attorneys came back shortly after, but Machado was not following them. A bailiff said something to the judge, to which the judge replied "carry him in."
Machado came in on his own seconds later.
Wallace, 53, was gunned down Sunday morning at the Fox Grove fishing access after going to check on a suspicious vehicle.
At 8:25 a.m. Sunday, Wallace arrived at the Fox Grove Fishing Access at 1000 Geer Road in Hughson in a marked patrol car and in his uniform. Wallace called into dispatch about a suspicious van at the scene and was quickly informed that the vehicle had been reported stolen and that the suspect in the theft was believed to be Machado, who also was believed to be armed, according to the sheriff's department. Wallace made a request for a second unit to come to the scene.
"Within seconds he was murdered - executed," Christianson said.
Dispatch tried to make contact with Wallace multiple times, but got no response. Sheriff's Deputy Christian Torres out of Waterford arrived at the scene and found Wallace on the ground shot. Lifesaving efforts were initiated and Wallace was rushed to a nearby hospital, but medical personnel were unable to save him and he was pronounced dead.
Christianson said Wallace was shot twice in the head.
"The gun was in direct contact with his head when it was pulled twice," Christianson said.
The suspect and the stolen van were both gone from Fox Grove. A message was broadcast to all area law enforcement agencies alerting them to the incident, information was provided identifying the suspect and the vehicle related to the initial investigation.
Law enforcement learned a person in Keyes had been carjacked at 8:40 a.m. Sunday and the individual positively identified Machado as the carjacker. It's unknown if the individual suffered any injuries during the carjacking. The vehicle Machado carjacked was a 2009 white Kia Rio.
The manhunt for Machado spread through the county and information, including his picture, distinctive tattoos, and the stolen vehicle were shared with law enforcement around the state.
Around noon in the city of Lindsay a woman in a convenience store was approached by a man, later identified as Machado, who attempted to forcibly take her car keys from her. The woman fought back and was able to call 911, prompting Machado to flee the scene on foot, according to the sheriff's department.
Lindsay Police officers located Machado around 12:33 p.m. Sunday. Machado had fled to a residential alleyway, where he was contacted by Lindsay Police officers and surrendered without incident.
Once in custody the police department recognized Machado from the all-points bulletin. His identity was confirmed through a photograph and from his tattoos. Sheriff's investigators and a custodial team flew to Tulare County on the sheriff's department helicopter to question Machado and bring him back to Stanislaus County.
"He will stand trial and we will seek justice," Christianson said.
At the time of his arrest Machado had a bench warrant out because he missed a court appearance on the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
A memorial fund for Wallace has been established by the Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association. Donations can be made in several ways: In person at any West America Bank branch to the Dennis Wallace Memorial Fund; by mail to: Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association, PO Box 2314, Ceres, CA 95307; or online at https://www.stanislaussworn.com/donation.html
Wallace was a 20-year-veteran of the sheriff's department and leaves behind a wife and family. He lived in Hughson and helped with community soccer games and youth football for the area. He had previously been assigned to the Salida area and the courthouse before his assignment in Hughson.
"Dennis is well-known in the organization for things like the D.A.R.E. program, working in our early intervention and education programs," Christianson said. "Dennis had a very special relationship with young people and a special place in our hearts."
This is the second fatal shooting the sheriff's department has suffered in recent years. In 2012, Deputy Robert Paris was shot to death while serving an eviction notice in Modesto.
"This tragedy it's happened again," Christianson said. "We did this in 2012. I never thought I'd be standing here before you doing this again. I want you all to pray for the Wallace family, to pray for public safety and I call for unity of support - a unity of support nationwide. No peace officer should be killed in the line of duty. Not one."
Detectives are working on establishing a timeline of everywhere Machado may have been before and after the shooting at the Fox Grove Fishing Access near Hughson. Detectives also want to speak to anyone who has had prior contacts or any incidents with Machado.
Anyone who believes they may have seen Machado at any time Sunday, or had dealings with him in the past, is asked to contact Sheriff's Detective Josh Sandoval at 525-7073.
Sabra Stafford contributed to this report.