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RIDE FOR FAMILIES BIKERS REMEMBER FALLEN COLLEAGUES.

Byline: Nicholas Grudin Staff Writer

VALENCIA - Thousands of gleaming motorcycles filled the rolling roads around Santa Clarita on Sunday in a tribute to peace officers slain in the line of duty.

The eighth annual Downed Officer Support Ride started at the Valencia Town Center, where more than 2,000 motorcyclists and Los Angeles-area law enforcement officials gathered for a fund-raising ``poker ride'' through the hills of North Los Angeles County.

``So often, police officers are dealing with the bad side of things - we rarely get a chance to see the support come our way,'' said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sergeant and event organizer Bob Norlemann, his shaved head and leather vest shining in the sunny, 100-degree weather.

The goal of the 100-mile ride was to raise funds for the families of peace officers killed on the job.

Last year, Norlemann offered $75,000.

``The last thing that those families need is to have financial problems after they lose a loved one,'' said Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine, a former motor officer for the Los Angeles Police Department and a motorcycle enthusiast.

The ride went from Valencia through the hills surrounding Santa Clarita, with stops along the way where riders picked up playing cards for an afternoon poker raffle.

When Norlemann first organized the ride in 1995, 317 bikers showed up.

This year, the number of riders has increased six fold, enough to garner substantial financial support for families of slain officers, Norlemann said.

``It's a very moving and emotional event when you look out and see thousands of participants come to pay tribute to families of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty,'' said Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Mike Hillmann, one of several dignitaries in attendance. ``It is very, very humbling.''

Also in attendance Sunday were Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smythe and San Fernando Police Chief Anthony Alba.

Sunday morning, surrounded by excited bikers from throughout the state, Norlemann was already writing a $1,000 check to the family of Steve Sorensen, a sheriff's deputy slain Aug. 2 while investigating a routine complaint in the Antelope Valley.

``It's incredible when you look at the number of people here, you wonder, who are the people who don't like the police?'' said Bob Clark, a retired Los Angeles fireman who lives in the West Hills.

Clark - who said his motorcycle cost him more than his home - was one of many biking fanatics in Valencia on Sunday overjoyed to combine his passion for the open road with his gratitude for law enforcement officials.

``It's overwhelming,'' he said.

But enthusiasm for the ride was tempered by memories of tragedy.

``We're here because people have died - it's bittersweet,'' said Sheriff's Lt. Paul Denney, president of the Law Enforcement Motorcycle Association.

In the past two years, four Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies have been killed on the job: Sorensen, David March, Jake Kuredjian and David Powell.

Kuredjian was a motorcycle officer who helped put together the Iron Warriors, Norlemann's law enforcement motorcycle riding club that organized Sunday's ride.

``It's a reality check,'' said Jeff Gordon, a deputy at Pitchess Detention Center. ``But we have our families' support, and they understand the line of work that we're in.''

CAPTION(S):

6 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color in SAC edition only) Dillon Siefker, 12, of Covina videos riders cruising into a parking lot Sunday for the start of the Downed Officer Ride.

(2 -- color -- ran in SAC edition only) Cyclists in the Downed Officers Ride form a motorcade down Avenue Hopkins.

(3 -- color -- ran in SAC edition only) Officers from the Glendale Police Department arrive at Valencia Town Center to begin the event.

(4 -- color -- ran in SAC edition only) L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Leonard Cifelli wears a T-shirt to honor Deputy Jake Kuredjian, who was killed two years ago.

(5 -- color in SAC edition only -- ran in SAC and Valley editions only) Riders stop at the intersection of Avenue Hopkins and Avenue Stanford in Santa Clarita.

(6 -- color -- ran in SAC edition only) L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Disbro walks a riderless horse, symbolizing law enforcement officers and firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 18, 2003
Words:713
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