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State bill to name overpass after slain officer
City officials have been successful in getting state Assemblyman Bill Berryhill to carry legislation to name the new Whitmore Avenue/Highway 99 overpass for the late Ceres Police Sgt. Howard Stevenson.

Ceres Police Chief Art deWerk made a trip to Sacramento April 13 to assist Berryhill get Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 20 moved out of the Assembly Transportation Committee. It passed as a consent item. It is expected to be voted on by the Appropriations Committee this week because of a cost to Caltrans.

Adam Struck, Berryhill's legislative director expects the bill to "sail right on through" to the Assembly floor.

"This should be wrapped up in a couple of weeks, but there's no hurry since the overpass won't be done for quite a while," said Struck.

Sgt. Stevenson was murdered on duty Jan. 9, 2005 as he was responding to a call of a man with a gun. Andres Raya, a Ceres Marine who went AWOL days prior and who had Latino gang affiliations, seriously injured Officer Sam Ryno in the gun attack outside of George's Liquors at Sequoia Street and Central Avenue and then fatally shot Stevenson, 39. The gunman was later killed by officers after he charged them in a nearby alley.

Originally deWerk hoped to get a section of freeway named after Stevenson but Berryhill's office learned that there are no available unnamed sections in the area. Highway 99 from Mitchell Road in Ceres to the Merced County line was named after Joash E. Paul, the late county supervisor, in 2003. Other portions of Highway 99 in the county are named after the late former state Assemblyman John G. Veneman and Jerry Medina, a teen accident victim.

DeWerk said he sees the naming the overpass just as "more fitting" since it would be seen by mostly local drivers.

The minimal cost of signs, estimated to cost $800 to $1,200, will likely be picked up by local donations, said de Werk. He said that service clubs or the Ceres Police Officers Association will likely step up to the plate.