LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A somber vigil was held outside LAPD headquarters Saturday evening to honor the fallen off-duty officer gunned down at a taco stand Friday night.
The deceased officer has been identified as Officer Juan Jose Diaz, 24.
The impromptu vigil was attended by classmates, co-workers and the late officer’s family.
Diaz was the middle child of two sisters.
“We have a mom, a dad…broken,” says Sarahy Diaz.
CBS2/KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen reported that many honoring the officer were in Dodgers hats and t-shirts. Blue balloons were also in evidence — the color of a police uniform and those beloved Dodgers.
“This young man,” reported Nguyen, “loved this city.”
He was loved by many — brothers, friends, family, parents, reported Nguyen.
Earlier in the day, a group of first responders paid their respects as Diaz’ body made it from the scene of the shooting to the County Coroner’s office.
Many of them saluted as his coffin went by.
Nguyen spoke to Diaz’s sergeant — Sgt. Manuel Hernandez — from his days at the police academy.
“This was roughly put together by his classmates from the police academy,” he said, “he was hired April 2017. So he just had two years on the job. And when everyone started getting news about who passed away last night, the text messages started going out, and his classmates put this vigil together on short notice.”
Hernandez added, “Just a young man. Juan. Always asking a lot of questions. Just happy, fun-going, grew up in a gang-infested neighborhood and still never joined a gang. He always did the right thing. And, unfortunately, we’re in this situation right now.”
Sgt. Diaz said officer Diaz often talked about why he joined the force and what he hoped to accomplish. The answer from the young officer was always the same. “To serve his home town.”
As the search for his killer continued, CBS2/KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo reported that Diaz was out on a date with his girlfriend at the time of the slaying.
Childhood friend Steve Razo said Diaz could always be counted on to do the right thing.
“He was always just so kindhearted,” Razo says, “A loving person. I don’t know why the good ones, they go before everyone else.”
Just before 1 a.m., Diaz was with his girlfriend and her brothers at the taco stand.
Authorities believe Diaz might have been gunned down by a gang member he tried to stop from tagging. The companion who was shot along with Diaz is expected to survive.
“I don’t believe there was any exchange of gunfire,” says LAPD Det. Meghan Aguilar, “he was targeted, he was murdered. And this was not a running gun battle or anything of that nature.”