“He wanted to be part of a brotherhood, men who were heroes and fought for justice and were willing to lay down their lives and die for each other.”
Words spoken by then-Chino Police Sgt. Miles Pruitt in February 2000 about the life of Officer Russ Miller, just days after he was struck and killed by a drunk driver during an early-morning traffic stop at Schaefer Avenue and 12th Street, offer a glimpse of the officer’s passion for police work, his family and his coworkers.
Officer Miller, 51, was four days from completing his 12th year with the Chino Police Department the night he was struck and became the first Chino Police employee to die in the line of duty since 1916.
“He was a hard-working police officer,” Chief Wes Simmons said. “He was the officer who would volunteer to work graveyard shifts so he could be a part of his children’s lives during the day.”
To honor Officer Miller, who was an avid runner, the Chino Police Association started the annual Run for Russ 5K community run-walk in 2001.
This year’s run, the 19th annual, is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 1, which marks the 20th anniversary of the day Officer Miller was killed.
“Our department has wanted to keep his memory alive,” Chief Simmons said. “We’d like to make this year one of the most popular races ever.”
The race has grown from only a few hundred runners in its early days to approximately 1,000 registering for the event in the past decade.
Runners will begin the race at Chino and Central avenues, head south on Central Avenue to Schaefer Avenue where they will pass the Russ Miller Memorial at Schaefer and 12th.
The course will then take runners north on Magnolia Avenue and west on Chino Avenue. The finish line is on Chino Avenue, just west of Central.
Cost for the 5K race is $30, or $35 on the day of the race.
Groups of 5 or more will receive a $5 discount per person.
Children 12 and younger can run for $15.
Participants will receive a T-shirt, pancake breakfast cooked by the Chino Kiwanis Club, water and snacks.
Signups will be accepted at https://racewire.com/register.php?id=11246.
The race has generated tens of thousands of dollars that has benefitted numerous youth and community programs in Chino and Chino Hills.
Officer Miller was working his usual graveyard shift on Feb. 1, 2000 when he stopped a car at 1:18 a.m. at 12th and Schaefer for a traffic violation.
At that time, a 21-year-old Chino man driving a Chevrolet Suburban struck the officer. The impact caused Officer Miller to land in the back of the pickup truck he had stopped.
The Suburban’s driver fled but was captured a short time later near Chino and Oaks avenues after he crashed the Suburban into a parked car.
Officer Miller was flown to Loma Linda University Medical Center where he died 12 hours later.
The Suburban’s driver was found to have a blood-alcohol level of .17 at the time of his arrest. He was convicted later in the year on charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run causing death while intoxicated.
A jury deadlocked 9-3 on a charge of second-degree murder.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Born in Minnesota in 1948, Officer Miller served in the Navy and was a Vietnam War veteran.
He married his wife Stephanie in 1978 and they had two daughters — Melissa and Sarah — and a son, Russ Jr.
Four years after the birth of his son, he joined the Chino Police Department in 1988. Officer Miller was a member of the Chino Police Department’s Mounted Enforcement Team and worked as a Field Training Officer.
He raised birds, and because of his love for animals, opened a pet shop in Corona. He coached his son’s Little League teams.
Officer Miller was recognized by the FBI in 1994 after gathering information that led to the arrest of a Connecticut mental hospital patient who escaped in 1992.
In 1995, Officer Miller was honored by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office in a child abduction case that led to an arrest.
In 1998, he received a commendation from the Chino Police chief on his work to recover a stolen car.
A Chino Police statement at the time said Officer Miller was offered a financial gift from the car’s owner but refused the offer, “showing all professionalism and the highest ethical standard in the performance of his duties.”
A year later, Officer Miller earned recognition by the Chino Police detective bureau for his efforts in the recovery of stolen vehicles and items taken during vehicle burglaries.
“A lot of people don’t know that Officer Miller didn’t start his law enforcement career until later in life, at age 40. It’s kind of unheard of,” Chief Simmons said. “Throughout his career, he departed his wisdom on the next generation of officers and he did a great job of that.”