Riverside deputy remembered as self-sacrificing, dedicated lawman
By PAUL J. YOUNG
Colleagues and loved ones of a 32-year-old Riverside County sheriff’s motorcycle patrol deputy gunned down during a traffic stop remembered him Friday as a “warrior” and a man who thought of others before himself.
“You were a man of few words but of heartfelt action,” Rebecca Cordero said of her son, Isaiah Albert Cordero. “Your precious and honest heart will live on. We cherish you.”
The grieving mother struggled to get through the eulogy for her youngest son, breaking down several times as her husband and Cordero’s stepfather, Gilbert, and several other family members stood next to her on the main platform at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside.
“You never wanted the spotlight, angel baby,” she said tearfully. “Your life was one of selfless service. You worked so hard to overcome hurdles. You knew what it took to earn that badge. Your selflessness and determination will not be forgotten.”
Rebecca Cordero noted that her son had entertained thoughts of leaving California due to the cost of living and the growing “disdain, disrespect (and) disregard” exhibited by a judicial system that she said appeared more oriented to the welfare of criminals than public safety.
“Complacency is no longer an option. We can no longer stand for virtue-signaling,” she said, taking aim at the San Bernardino County Superior Court judge who had deferred action on a case involving Deputy Cordero’s killer, a three-strike felon, allowing him to remain free on bail pending sentencing.
“Judge Cara Hutson, my family is devastated,” Cordero said. “My family and his community and his brothers and sisters (in uniform) demand your resignation.”
The words roused applause throughout the church.
Cordero said she believed the traffic stop that ended her son’s life likely saved other people from peril.
“You fought the good fight, my boy,” she said. “It’s so heartbreaking.”
Sheriff Chad Bianco equated his deputy’s willingness to confront the criminal element to scriptural references of waging battles against evil from the beginning of time.
“God has sent warriors to fight evil,” Bianco said. “Where does evil come from? It’s in the Book of Isaiah. … God asks who shall he send? Isaiah said, ‘Send me.’ Deputy (Isaiah) Cordero stood up and said, ‘Send me.’ We lost a deputy. The Cordero family lost a son, and the world lost a good man. … His sacrifice will not be in vain.”
Bianco said the loss raises the ever-agonizing question of “why is it always the good ones” who are taken.
“Our time is set, and sometimes there are no answers,” the sheriff said. “But we must never forget the battle, and we must not let his death be in vain. We must never be afraid to pursue justice. Evil is always lurking in the shadows. We must seek to fight and destroy it.”
Cordero’s immediate supervisor, sheriff’s Capt. Mike Koehler, chief of the Jurupa Valley station, praised the fallen deputy for his staunch work ethic and positive attitude.
“That smile you saw in the pictures is the only Isaiah I knew, no matter what kind of day he was having,” Koehler said. “We will memorialize and mourn Isaiah. He epitomized the ethos of ‘service above self.’ We will carry on (and) not let him or his family down. He was the better man.”
Harvest Pastor Craig Laurie related how the feelings that welled within him after the loss of his son in a traffic accident on the Riverside (91) Freeway 14 years ago were the same for Cordero’s family.
“You ask, how can I survive this? Why was this allowed by God?” Laurie said. “You will never get over this, but you will get through this. Isaiah is in Heaven. It’s a real place, with real people, who do real things. We will be reunited again.”
An end-of-watch tribute was broadcast on the sheriff’s public safety channels to close out the memorial, during which a dispatcher called Cordero twice, asking for a safety check. After no response, she said finally, “We will be forever grateful for all you have given and sacrificed.”
Several thousand people gathered inside church, and in an overflow seating area outside for the duration of the nearly two-hour memorial. Hundreds of law enforcement personnel from throughout the county, California and a few other states were on hand to salute the fallen lawman.
Cordero was fatally shot about 1:45 p.m. on Dec. 29 in the 3900 block of Golden West Avenue, near Rathke Drive, in Jurupa Valley, his hometown. His was the first line-of-duty death involving a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy in 15 years.
He began his career as a correctional deputy, working the jails from 2014 to 2017. Cordero attended the Riverside sheriff’s academy again in 2018 to serve as a patrol deputy and was eventually accepted onto the motor unit, where he worked as a patrolman from September to December 2022.
Bianco said Cordero stopped 44-year-old William S. McKay of San Bernardino for reasons still under investigation but likely related to irregularities with the black pickup he was driving.
According to the sheriff, McKay’s criminal history included convictions for kidnapping, assault on a California Highway Patrol canine and armed robbery.
“This tragedy should have been (prevented) by the criminal justice system,” Bianco said last week. “This suspect was on his third strike in 2021. But instead of receiving a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison, a judge lowered his bail. He failed to appear for sentencing … and the same judge released him again.”
The judge, Hutson, was reelected in June and has been a judicial officer since 2007.
McKay led a phalanx of law enforcement personnel on a roughly two-hour pursuit that started in San Bernardino and ended on southbound Interstate 15 in Norco, where his pickup crashed after the rear tires, which had blown after going over a police spike strip, caused the axle to fail.
Bianco alleged McKay fired at law enforcement officers as they surrounded him. They returned fire and killed him.
A “Help A Hero” fundraiser for Cordero’s loved ones topped $100,000 on Wednesday. The original goal was exactly that amount, prompting the page sponsor, the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation, to establish a new goal of $200,000. The page is at helpahero.com/campaign/deputy-isaiah-cordero.