Officer Mathew Pavelka, age 26, who was honored on Nov. 15, 2023, in Burbank’s Johnny Carson Park, had been on the Burbank Police Force only ten months the night he came to the aid of fellow Burbank Officer Greg Campbell 20 years earlier today in 2003. Officer Campbell had stopped a Cadillac Escalade without license plates sitting in the parking lot of the Burbank Ramada Inn at 2900 San Fernando Rd. at 6:15 pm. When the two suspects were ordered to exit their vehicle, they emerged firing their handguns a total of 30 rounds at the two officers, who were both hit by bullets but kept firing in return.
Officer Campbell was wounded in the abdomen and neck, never fully recovering, and was still limping at today’s ceremony. He continued, however, to later serve at a desk with the Burbank Police Department. Officer Pavelka, who had served as a security officer with the U.S. Air Force, died from his gunshot wounds, the first Burbank police officer to be killed in the line of duty. He was the son of a 29-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Dept. One suspect was killed in the gun battle while the other escaped and left his vehicle behind, which was later to have found automatic rifles and methamphetamines inside it.
Retired Burbank Sgt. Darin Ryburn was interviewed after the ceremony and spoke about how he had been assigned after the shooting investigation to be Burbank’s contact with Officer Pavelka’s family. He was able to maintain his professional composure during the interview until becoming emotional when he remembered how he informed the dead officer’s family that the escaped murder suspect, longtime 28-year-old “Vineland Boyz” gang member David Garcia, had been captured in Tijuana, Mexico two weeks after the shootings after a massive search, with assistance by Mexican law enforcement. Garcia is today serving a life sentence in prison with no possibility of parole, while two of his brothers who helped him escape were both given 18-month sentences.
Included in today’s ceremony, which was held fittingly under gray skies and light rain, both because it added to the solemnity of the occasion but also, as was said during Burbank’s former Mayor Michael Hastings’ speech, that it was also raining the evening Officer Pavelka was killed. There was also the announcement of a permanent Burbank Police Cadets Scholarship named in honor of Officer Pavelka’s memory.
The ceremony honoring Officer Pavelka included a memorial plaque and a newly installed flagpole flying the American flag. A short but moving speech was made by Hastings, who is now the President of the Burbank Police Foundation, who donated funding for the memorial, followed by the Los Angeles Police Emerald Society playing Amazing Grace on their bagpipes and snare drum just as a city helicopter flew over to honor the occasion. Officer Pavelka’s parents were in attendance, along with other family and friends.
After the ceremony, the Burbank Police Running Team, who makes the famous law enforcement Baker to Vegas run each year, donned Matthew Pavelka shirts and ran as a unit back to the police station during a light rain.