Manhattan Beach Police officer killed in freeway crash remembered as an “everyday hero” – Orange County Register
Chad Swanson, a 35-year-old Manhattan Beach police officer, was honored Wednesday, Oct. 18, during a celebration of life service in Cypress two weeks after was killed in a crash on the 405 Freeway.
Family, friends and law enforcement personnel gathered Wednesday morning at the SeaCoast Grace Church after a procession from the Manhattan Beach Police Department to share stories of the man who had touched so many during his short time in this life.
Swanson, a 13-year veteran with the department was killed on Oct. 4 when a car collided with his police motorcycle while he was likely on his way to work.
“We’re going to mourn, we’re going to cry. But we’re also going to laugh,” Pastor Cody Surratt said at the start of the service.
And despite the heavy emotions weighing on Swanson’s loved ones, many laughs were shared while remembering the life of the officer, husband, brother, son and father of three.
Swanson was born in 1988 to Kip and Valerie.
Growing up in his South Gate neighborhood, he spent his childhood skateboarding with friends, camping at Salton Sea and Lost Lake and getting into trouble with his friends. He was described by his parents as passionate, independent, competitive to the max, loyal, smart and impulsive.
“I’ve been told (by his family) that as a child, Chad is what we’d politely describe as spirited. So spirited that he became well familiar with the decor in the principal’s office at school,” Police Chief Rachel Johnson said while holding back tears.
On a middle school day, Johnson said, one of Chad’s classmates broke a sign that was in the parking lot. Rather than let his friend get in trouble, Chad took the blame — despite his mother’s skepticism.
When asked why he would take the fault, Swanson said his classmate was not used to getting into trouble and wouldn’t know how to handle it.
That would mark the start of Swanson’s path toward becoming an “everyday hero of extraordinary courage,” Johnson said.
When he entered St. Jon Bosco High School, Swanson stood at 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 85 pounds, but that did not deter him from joining the school’s wrestling team and competing in the 103 pound weight class.
His signature move was known as the cradle, and once in that position, Swanson became an unstoppable force for his opponents.
“Every time he would come up to me and say he learned a move I would groan because I knew I was about to get tapped out in some new way,” said Scott Johnson, a childhood friend of more than 30 years.
“What I would give for one last time to tap,” he said.
He was the wresting team’s captain by his senior year, as well as member of the academic decathlon and honors society, the junior class president and the Associated Student Body vice president, achievements his mother said he made look easy.
When he came to his friend about joining the police force, Scott was initially confused by the decision, he said, “but watching him grow in his career and his passion and dedication to serving and protecting people I knew. He had no fear.”
Swanson started his career working as a park enforcement officer for the Hawthorne Police Department before joining with the Manhattan Beach Police in 2010.
He quickly made a name for himself at the department, namely as the guy whose first order of business after a briefing was to ask “what’s for lunch?,” and answering the phone with “sup girl,” to anyone that called him — something that would annoy his wife who thought he was talking to another woman, said Officer David Gibbons.
“You can’t do police work on an empty stomach,” Gibbons recalled being Swanson’s mantra.
In his time with Manhattan Beach Police, he went on to serve on the department’s SWAT team, as a crime scene investigator, a use of force instructor and a member of the Honor Guard.
In 2017, Swanson, a huge country music fan, along with his wife Hailey, attended Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas where a lone shooter killed 59 people and injured more than 500.
In the midst of the chaos, Swanson helped get shooting victims and others out of the area.
“Chad didn’t miss a beat. ‘Those are gunshots and you need to get out of here,’” Hailey said. “He turned to me and said hold my beer before running towards the smoke.”
While running back and forth carrying people to safety and applying tourniquets, he was struck in the arm by a fragment of a bullet that hit the ground.
Hailey said she was finally reunited with Swanson in a casino the next morning, where he came in shirtless and covered in blood, asking his wife where his beer koozie was.
“Being loved by Chad meant never having to worry about anything except for Chad,” she said.
During a press conference following the mass shooting, Swanson said he just wanted to help as many people as he could.
“In times of crisis, the true measure is laid bare for all to see, and Chad’s true measure was that of a loyal friend, courageous stranger and selfless sacrifice to others,” Johnson said.
Swanson is survived by his brother Cory; his wife, Hailey and his three kids, Jaimson, Declan and Easton.
“I hate that you had to die,” Hailey said. “But I’m so grateful that you lived.”
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