Watsonville police officer Kraig Kliewer
Watsonville Police Officer Kraig Kliewer retired in July after nearly three decades in law enforcement. Photo: Todd Guild/The Pajaronian

Retired Watsonville Police Officer Kraig Kliewer, who retired in July following a 29-year career, died Tuesday.

“It is with a heavy heart that we inform you about the passing of retired Watsonville Police Officer Kraig Kliewer,” said Michelle Pulido, spokeswoman for WPD. “He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his family, following a brief battle with cancer. Kraig Kliewer, or Sunshine, as many of us knew him, will be greatly missed, and his legacy will continue to inspire us every day. Let us remember and honor his service, sacrifice and his infectious smile.”

In an interview with the Pajaronian in July, Kliewer, badge No. 273, said he wanted to be a police officer for years when he was younger, a desire that grew when he went on a ride-along with a cousin who was a California Highway Patrol officer. This included a lights-and-siren response to an incident.

“That hooked me,” he said.

After completing administration of justice classes at Cabrillo College, Kliewer began working as a reserve officer for Scotts Valley Police, but was then hired by WPD. 

“I’ve been here ever since,” he said in July.

Kliewer went on to serve as a detective, a team member on the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) task force, the Watsonville Police Activities League and the Alcohol Beverage Control task force.

In the July interview, Kliewer said he planned to move to his home in Nevada with his wife. 

“Every day’s a new day,” he said. “It’s not the same thing over and over again. Whatever the day throws at you, you have to deal with it and take care of it. I’ve enjoyed my whole career; it’s been rewarding. I like the people I work with and I look forward to coming to work.”

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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