ANAHEIM, Calif. – Thousands of law enforcement personnel from throughout the state of California and beyond gathered Tuesday at the Honda Center in Anaheim to celebrate the life of fallen Officer Nicholas Vella of the Huntington Beach Police Department.
Vella, 44, was killed Feb. 19 when his helicopter developed mechanical problems and he and his partner went down in the waters of neighboring Newport Beach, Law Officer reported. His partner survived the crash and has since been released from the hospital.
A smile that “lit up Nick’s whole face,” said brother John Vella. “Chin to forehead, cheek to cheek, Nick had a smile for the ages.”
John Vella was among several family members, friends, and peers who delivered eulogies praising Nicholas Vella during the memorial service for the fallen officer, Behind the Badge reported.
Vella and his partner were responding to a disturbance call in Newport Beach when the airship went down in the waters under duress.
John Vella spoke of his brother’s God-given desire to help the underdog and come to the rescue of anyone being bullied.
“Nick knew from an early age that he belonged as part of this body (of police officers), that he was a guardian, a protector, a peacekeeper,” John Vella said. “He devoted his entire career to that cause.”
Nick embraced the outdoors, especially the ocean, his brother said. He loved surfing at San Onofre and mountain biking, Behind the Badge reported.
Ron Tovar was Officer Vella’s father-in-law. He was impressed by his son-in-law’s ability to transition from the sometimes-hardened demeanor needed on the job, to the softhearted side of life with family.
“I cannot even imagine how you shift gears from the things you see and the way sometimes we see in social media how people talk to police,” he said. “I can’t image how you can shift from that to be kind and gentle to your family but he did that. He was just an influence on us all.”
Vella was born in Whittier and attended St. Margaret’s High School in San Juan Capistrano, where he played played football and basketball as well as singing in choir, according to Behind the Badge.
The officer began his law enforcement career in 2003 with the Laguna Beach Police Department. He was later hired by the Huntington Beach Police Department in 2008. He served in the Air Bureau for the past six years, participating in several operations and earning 80 commendations.
Officer Nicholas Vella is survived by his wife, Kristi, daughter, Dylan, parents, John and Marcella Vella, brother, John, and multiple extended family members.