Young Kids Mourn the Death of Local ‘Hero’ Sheriff’s Deputy

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HUGHSON -- Blue and black ribbons wrapped around trees and stop signs in Hughson.

At Hughson Elementary School, kids wore those same colors Tuesday to honor a man who meant so much to the community.

"I'm wearing this to represent Dennis," second-grader Logan Rossi said.

Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Wallace and the kids in the neighborhood were on a first name basis.

"He was our children's hero. They all looked up to him when they saw him. They ran up to him, they hugged him. They waved to him as he drove by. He kept it safe for us. He made it a wonderful community," said Logan's mother, Leslie Rossi.

Then, grief swept the community when a gunman shot and killed Deputy Wallace this past Sunday.

The town is now painted blue. The flags are flying at half mast and neighbors are paying their respects.

The middle school and high school in Hughson have counselors to help kids grieve. But the elementary school does not. In fact, parents said they had to break the news to them in a way only they would understand.

"I told them that unfortunately, there was a bad person who came through town, and he did something terrible, and that's what the result was. And they obviously took it very hard," Rossi said.

Wallace served 20 years in the department and was a long-time DARE officer who steered kids away from drugs.

He was also a youth soccer coach.

Many say Wallace did so much more.

"When we had a problem with our lost dog, he helped us find him," Hughson Elementary School mother Silvia Gomez said.

"He helped us one time when my brother got a concussion," Logan Rossi said.

"He was the best cop ever from the United States. He was my brother's friend. And we met in first grade. And he read us a story, and he loved children and that's why we respect him a lot ... in our hearts," third-grader Noeli Gomez Orozco said.

For many of these students, this is their first experience with death.

They are learning that Wallace may be gone but he won't be forgotten.

"I'll always have him in my heart," Logan Rossi said.

"He's going to be in our dreams," Gomez Orozco said.

Deputy Dennis Wallace's alleged killer was in courtĀ for his arraignment Tuesday.