On October 20, 1989, a SWAT team from San Joaquin County was requested by the neighboring Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department to assist them serve a narcotics warrant at a sprawling three-acre truck stop in the city of Ripon. One of the team members was Deputy Dighton Little, 35, a ten-year veteran of the department and an original member of the department’s SWAT team when it was established in 1986.
The personnel serving the warrant broke into three teams to search the various buildings on the property. After finishing the search of one structure, Deputy Little’s team moved on to a trailer. As the team announced themselves at the front of the trailer and heard a response from a man inside, Deputy Little moved to the rear and broke out a rear window as a diversion. He was then heard ordering a suspect to put down his weapon. Instead, the man fired at him with a hunting rifle striking him in the forehead. The suspect was then killed in the return of fire by other members of Deputy Little’s team.
Nearly 1,500 people attended Deputy Little’s funeral. Though divorced and with no children, Deputy Little actively participated in the local Big Brother program. An eleven-year-old boy, who Deputy Little mentored, remembered how Little got him a ball signed by his favorite baseball player, Mark McGuire of the Oakland A’s. He said, “We had a lot of fun times together, and I will miss him a lot.”
When the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department headquarters moved into a new building, the patrol briefing room was dedicated in Deputy Little’s honor.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, Lodi News Sentinel, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department Fallen Officer Page