A Riverside police officer ambushed and killed while on patrol was honored today by friends and family, who remembered him as an accomplished law enforcement officer and former Marine devoted to his family, leaving an indelible impression on everyone he knew.
"My first thought was because he was taken from us way too early, he never got to make his mark on this world," Rob Frazer, a childhood friend of 34-year-old Officer Michael Daniel Crain, said. "But after seeing this, I know that's not true. There's been such a display of admiration.
"To me, he was like a brother, the kind of best friend everybody hopes they could ever have. He was always there for me when I needed him. I only wish I could have been there for him." Several thousand people attended a memorial service for Crain at Grove Community Church. Those paying their final respects included the entire Riverside Police Department, law enforcement officers from around the state and country, the mayor and city council and Riverside County supervisors.
Crain's flag-draped coffin was carried into the church by an honor guard led by bagpipers playing laments. "Mike was the picture of a genuinely kind and caring person," Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz said. "He was always respectful and patient. He was proud to serve his country, loved being a policeman, enjoyed the company of friends and lived for his family."
Diaz spoke directly to the slain officer's children, 10-year-old Ian and 4-year-old Kaitlyn, telling them, "He'll be watching you grow up. Nothing can take the place of your big, tough, loving, gentle daddy. But you won't be alone."
Retired Riverside police Detective Steve Pounds, who had been Crain's initial training officer and mentor, recalled how the patrolman had started out "tentative and apprehensive," but soon came into his own, successfully pursuing a series of goals over the next 11 years.
"He wanted to be on the SWAT unit. Accomplished that. He wanted to be a firearms instructor. Accomplished that. He wanted to be a field training officer. Accomplished that," Pounds said. "He had the skills and demeanor that motivate and stimulate. Mike was a role model." Another of Crain's longtime friends, Joe Negroni, remembered him as someone he could count on "no matter what." "We all looked up to him," Negroni said. "Few things are undeniable -- he was born to serve his country. He was one mean Marine."
John Bacon, who supervised a Young Marines program in San Bernardino that Crain attended at age 12, recalled the youth's dedication and enthusiasm. Bacon also recited part of a stanza from the Marine Corps hymn that states "If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven's scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines." "Guard the streets well, my friend," Bacon said. "One day, I will march with you again."
Crain's wife, Regina, admitted hardship in coping with the loss of her husband, whom she described as the ideal soulmate. "Everything seemed too good, seemed too perfect," she said tearfully. "A lot of people have wonderful relationships. I felt mine was perfect. It seemed like a dream. We were busy with the babies. But we were all together. I'm going to miss that."
Pastor Tom Lance admitted that he didn't have the answers behind Crain's murder but attempted to offer solace. "God gives us free choice. People can do good things in the world. But the opposite is true, too: People can do wicked things," Lance said. "Mike chose to make the most of life. He fought the good fight. Sadly, it was another's evil choice that ended his life."
Crain's slaying is blamed on Christopher Jordan Dorner, a 33-year-old ex- cop bent on revenge for his termination from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008. Dorner is believed to have died Tuesday afternoon in a mountain cabin near Big Bear that burned to the ground following a shootout with sheriff's deputies, one of whom also died.
Crain was fatally shot around 1:30 a.m. Thursday in an ambush during which Dorner allegedly opened fire on the officer and his 27-year-old partner at the intersection of Magnolia and Arlington avenues as the unsuspecting men waited in their patrol unit for the light to change.
Crain's partner, whose name has not been released, was seriously wounded but was expected to recover. Diaz told reporters that Dorner likely attacked the patrolmen in the belief they might attempt to intercept him before he could reach the freeway to make his getaway.
About 20 minutes before shooting Crain and his partner, Dorner allegedly fired on two LAPD officers on a protective detail in Corona. Dorner was also wanted for allegedly killing a college basketball coach and her fiance in Irvine last week.
Crain was born in Anaheim and raised in the Riverside area. After graduating from Redlands High School in 1996, he attended college for a year, then enlisted in the military.
A rifleman, he served two tours of duty overseas between 1997 and 2000, attaining the rank of sergeant. He was hired by RPD after completing a law enforcement academy in 2001 and sworn in on Aug. 24 of that year.
He was laid to rest following a flag ceremony and final tributes at Riverside National Cemetery.