On Christmas Eve, 1997, a sixteen-year-old gang member shot and wounded five people. He purported bragged to a number of people he did the shooting and insisted he would not be taken alive. On January 9, the suspect was located hiding in an apartment and a search warrant obtained by the Visalia Police Department.
Officer James J. Rapozo was one of the first SWAT team members to enter the apartment. The suspect immediately opened fire on the officers with a .9mm semi-automatic handgun. A hail of gunfire met his assault, killing him. But one his bullets struck Officer Rapozo’s left side in an area not covered by his vest penetrating his heart. He was rushed to Kaweah Delta District Hospital where he died in surgery.
Jim Rapozo began his law enforcement career with the Hanford Police Department in April 1986 and worked there until March 1990 when he became a Kings County Deputy Sheriff. Less than a year later he joined the Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement before he became a member of the Visalia Police Department in April 1992.
In 2014, Jim’s daughter, Megan, followed her father’s footsteps into law enforcement when she joined the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office as a communications and public information specialist. Visalia Police Captain Jason Salazar, who was part of the SWAT team when her father died, indicated he was thrilled to see Megan an active member of the law enforcement family. He told KRSN-TV, “It’s exciting, Jim would be very proud, all of us here at the VPD family are very proud of her and excited to see what she’s going to do.”
Sources: City of Visalia Memorial Page, Tulare County Sheriff’s Office Memorial Page, KFSN-TV, Fresno