Deputy praised as 'the best of us' - Albuquerque Journal

Deputy praised as ‘the best of us’

Family members pay their respects to Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy and Air National Guardsman Michael Levison during a Wednesday memorial service on August 3, 2022, in The Pit. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Law enforcement officers and firefighters from various agencies escorted the flag-draped casket of Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy Michael Adam Levison into the University of New Mexico Arena on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old was praised as “the best of us” and a guiding “moral compass” by family and friends at the last of four memorial services for the first responders killed in a helicopter crash in July.

He was also described as compassionate, but driven, hardworking, and a highly trained deputy and patriot.

Levison was among those killed in the July 16 crash south of Las Vegas, New Mexico, where they were dropping buckets of water and aiding in logistics from the air to help suppress the East Mesa Fire.

The others killed were Bernalillo County Undersheriff Larry Koren, Lt. Fred Beers III and Lt. Matthew King, a rescue specialist with the Bernalillo County Fire Department.

Bagpipers played as the casket was wheeled into the arena as large monitors above flashed photos of Levison, who was also a technical sergeant with the New Mexico Air National Guard, where he served for more than a decade as a combat engineer.

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said Levison was “a very positive, driven, kind, hardworking and enthusiastic person.”

Gonzales relayed a story about Levison being among the deputies who responded to a child custody situation. Levison distracted a frightened, confused and traumatized 2-year-old by allowing the child to play with the siren and lights in his vehicle.

“He focused on the victim,” Gonzales said. “And he told that child, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to be here for you.’ ”

Levison, he noted, had “hundreds and hundreds of hours of training, trying to better himself, and trying to be the best Michael that he could be.” As a result of that training, Levison served as a crisis negotiator, field investigator, field training officer, Emergency Response Team leader, tactical flight officer, and member of the gang recognition and intelligence unit.

Levison’s mother, Suzanne Piñeda-Levison, told those gathered that “my life is forever changed” because of her son’s life and death. “I’m no different than all of you, watching my children achieve from the first words, the first steps, their first accomplishments and being overjoyed at everything,” she said.

His father, Daniel Levison, said Michael “was known to have a big heart and a great sense of humor.”

He recalled going to Michael’s home for dinner once and on entering through the open garage door finding his son sitting on the floor, polishing the springs of his Camaro ZL1 with a toothbrush. Michael, he said, “never did anything halfway, he was a man with a mission.

“Life is what you make it – my son taught me that,” he added

Bernalillo Sheriff Deputies and New Mexico Air National Guardsmen pay their respects on August 3, 2022, in The Pit during the funeral of Bernalillo Sheriff Deputy Michael Levison, who was killed in a July helicopter crash. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Phil Levison, also a sheriff’s deputy, said his brother Michael was always referred to “as the best of us.” He called his brother “a moral compass and a person to turn to for some much needed guidance in times of need.”

Noelle Ashoo, Levison’s longtime partner, said there was a greatness about him.

“It isn’t because he’s a patriot and a man of service that makes him great,” she said. Rather, it was because of the kind of person he was.

She noted that, more than a decade ago, Levison told her that “no matter what happens to me, I promise you’ll be taken care of.”

He is keeping that promise, she told his family, colleagues and friends. “Because of all of you and what Michael meant to you, I’ve never felt alone or afraid or scared,” she said. “He may not be with us, but he’s still watching out for us.”

Among the hundreds of people in the arena stands were many who shared their stories about Levison.

Marissa Torrez said she met Levison through mutual friends a few years ago. “Ever since then, we just clicked and he would check on me to make sure I was OK or if I needed anything.”

Her young children were having their birthdays at a time of COVID restrictions and Levison, she said, arranged a drive-by parade for them in front of their home, with sheriff’s vehicles and fire engines.

“It was just amazing,” Torrez said. “He was amazing.”

Theresa Montoya, records management supervisor for Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, not only knew Levison through her work for the department, “but I knew Michael because he went to school with my son,” she said, choking back tears. “He was an awesome kid, very driven, very focused on what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to get into law enforcement. If there was anybody who was in need, he was the first person there to help.”

Levison, who graduated from Volcano Vista High School, later attended the University of New Mexico, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology.

In additon to his mother, father, brother and girlfriend, Levison is also survived by siblings Andrew Levison, Melissa Levison and Nikolaus Tremmel; his stepmother, Marie Levison; grandmother Guadalupe Piñeda; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Following the memorial service, Levison was laid to rest in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

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