Modesto police officer dies after having flu-like illness

Modesto police officer Michael DuFour, who joined the department 2 1/2 years ago after five years as band director at Beyer High School, died Saturday at his home.

DuFour, 32, had been off work for two days, suffering from flu-like symptoms, Lt. Janelle Flint said.

"He had not been feeling well for three or four days," Flint said.

DuFour's wife, Rebecca, found him dead on the floor of their home about 4:30 a.m., she said.




Flint said several officers have been out sick this week with flu symptoms, and after she heard that DuFour had died she called the others to check on them. They were all right, she said.

An autopsy was conducted, but the cause of DuFour's death cannot be determined until the results of lab tests are complete.

In 2001, DuFour gave up his conductor's baton for a police baton, leaving his alma mater to join the police force.

At the time, DuFour said the time-consuming music program left him little time for family or outside activities.

"It is time to make a change and become refreshed and reinvigorated with life," he said.

DuFour served as Merced High School's band director in 1995 and '96.

When he came to Beyer in 1996, he took over a 150-member band that faced financial problems and tougher competition from other high schools.

His first moves: Cut the budget and start 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. marching practices. He wore a camouflage hat and required a "yes, sir" with every answer.

"The kids have already reacted with increased discipline," he said in 1996, just two days into practice. "The important thing is that it's self-discipline. If they do something wrong, they do 10 push-ups. But not because I told them to. They do it on their own."

DuFour led Beyer's marching band for five years. In 1999, the band was picked to open the inaugural gala for Gov. Davis.

His students won accolades at the invitation-only Fiesta Bowl National Pageant of Bands in Phoenix in December 2000. The band also performed in a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland.

DuFour joined the Police Department on July 2, 2001, as a recruit. He graduated from the academy at the Ray Simon Criminal Justice Training Center and was sworn in as a police officer Dec. 14, 2001. He was assigned to the Operations Division and worked patrol.

He also was a volunteer adviser for the department's Explorer Program. He was a member of the department's Honor Guard, department spokesman Doug Ridenour said.

"He was a real nice guy and very talented," Ridenour said in a statement.

Chief Roy Wasden called DuFour's death a "tremendous loss" to the department. "The Modesto Police Department is shocked at the sudden loss of this talented, aspiring young officer," Wasden said in a statement. "He set an example as a professional, hard-working, compassionate, mature police officer."

DuFour, who graduated from Beyer in 1989, played tuba in the band, said Don Doud of Modesto. Doud's son was two years behind DuFour in school, and Doud was a member of the band boosters. "He (DuFour) was quite a musician when he was in high school, and he won state honors," Doud said. "After he graduated from high school, he became a graduate assistant with the band and then he went off to college," Doud said.

DuFour and his wife have a baby daughter, Rachel.

The Modesto Police Officers Association has established a trust fund for Rachel DuFour. Donations may be sent to the Modesto POA, 1300 G St., Suite 200, Modesto 95354, or call 342-6159.

Bee staff writer Daryl Farnsworth can be reached at 578-2337 or