By Lou Ponsi, Behind the Badge
Hailey Swanson described her husband, fallen Manhattan Beach Police Officer Chad Swanson, as being “fearless, strong, loud, decisive, confident, devoted, protective, and always there with some off-the-wall comments and make me laugh, even in the darkest moments.”
Hailey delivered these remarks during her husband’s funeral in front of a congregation of at least two thousand mourners at SeaCoast Grace Church in Cypress on Oct. 18, a gathering that included more than 1,000 police officers and law enforcement personnel from agencies throughout the state and the country.
At around 5:15 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2023, Swanson, 35, was likely headed to work on his motorcycle when the driver of one car hit another vehicle on the northbound 405 Freeway on the edge of Carson near Del Amo Boulevard. The second driver is believed to have lost control and careened into Swanson, who was thrown from his motorcycle.
Paramedics rushed Swanson to the hospital, where he later died, leaving behind his wife and three young sons, Jameson, Declan, and Easton. Swanson had been with the Manhattan Beach Police Department for 13 years.
“Chad was everything I could ask for in a husband, and everything the boys could ask for in a dad,” Hailey said. Speaking directly to her husband, Hailey said, “I hate that you had to die, but I’m so grateful that you lived.”
Swanson was under five feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds when he began his freshman year at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower. He went on to become team captain and wrestle at three different weight classes.
As a member of the academic decathlon and the honor society, Swanson excelled in academics and was the junior class president and ASB vice president. After graduating from Cal State Long Beach with a criminal justice degree in 2010, Swanson enrolled in the Orange County Sherrif’s Training Academy, graduating as a member of Class 196. He worked briefly as a parking enforcement officer before joining the Manhattan Beach Police Department.
“We’re a small department and most of our team wears many hats to get the jobs done in service to our community, and over the years, Chad wore quite a few himself,” Manhattan Beach Police Chief Rachel Johnson said.
Swanson took on roles as a crime scene investigator, use-of-force instructor, and was a member of the SWAT team.
In 2015, Swanson earned a Medal of Valor for helping to save the life of a burglary suspect who sustained multiple lacerations from trying to break into a building and was bleeding profusely.
Swanson was also a huge fan of country music and the depth of his character was revealed in a more striking way when he was attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, when a gunman began opening fire on the concert goers from a window of the adjacent Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Despite being shot in the arm, Swanson rendered aid to other shooting victims and pulled victims to safety. In all the chaos he was separated from his wife, and didn’t see her again until the next day.
Nearly sixty people were killed in the shooting — including Swanson’s colleague, Manhattan Beach Police Department Records Technician Rachel Parker — and close to 900 were injured.
“I just wanted to try to help as many people as I could,” Swanson told the Daily Breeze days after the shooting. “At a certain point, we realized that there were no more people in the concert venue that were alive that we could help.”
Swanson’s lifelong friend Scott Johnson had known Swanson since early childhood, growing up in Southgate, riding dirt bikes and skateboards, and coming home with cuts and bruises and broken bones. Johnson said his friend was intensely competitive and didn’t like to give up.
At first, Johnson said he was surprised when Swanson became a police officer. But as he advanced in his career, his passion for service and helping people became more apparent, Johnson said.
“He was a protector,” Johnson said. “He was a real-life hero. Chad went 100 miles an hour all the time, but he always put his family first, and made sure they had what they needed. Watching him grow into that person made me understand how fortunate I was to have someone like him in my life.”