Bryon Sandrini, president of the Kern County 999 Foundation, said the organization decided recently to honor Nelson’s service by beginning an effort to name the intersection in his honor.
“It’s at the start of Bakersfield, so his name behind it would let people know he served the city. Hopefully the City Council agrees and the state agrees,” said Sandrini, a Bakersfield Police Department officer.
The 999 Foundation, a nonprofit that assists families of Kern County peace officers who have died in the line of duty, is willing to pay the cost of the effort, Sandrini added.
Bakersfield Councilman Chris Parlier, whose southern ward includes the freeway project, said he thought the plan was “a fantastic idea” when foundation members suggested it.
Grove confirmed she will author a state resolution naming the interchange in Nelson’s memory, and state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, and state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, will co-author it.
Parlier’s immediate predecessor at City Hall, Russell Johnson, is a friend of Nelson’s brother Eric and likes the plan, too.
“I think that’s a great idea, a great way to honor one of our own who died in the line of duty, and I’ll write a letter in support if I have to,” said Johnson, who made getting a Hosking interchange a priority during his term on the council.
Nelson, 26, who graduated second in his BPD academy class and was seen as a capable rising star on the force, died June 26 of injuries suffered in a single-vehicle crash during a pre-dawn pursuit.
He was the first BPD officer to die in the line of duty in more than 31 years — and would be the first fallen BPD officer to be honored along a local highway, according to BPD Sgt. Joe Grubbs.
Through BPD, Nelson’s family has repeatedly declined to comment.
Bestowing the honor, which legislative staffers are still researching, would likely take several months.
Highway 99 is controlled by Caltrans, and naming a state interchange or highway segment must be approved by the state legislature.
Once staffers have determined the idea has “wide community support,” lacks opposition and isn’t controversial, Grove, Fuller and Vidak will introduce it in what’s called a concurrent resolution — to be voted on by the state Senate and Assembly.