LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A young LAPD officer who was only on the force for two years when he was shot and killed last month while off duty was honored Monday with a memorial service in downtown Los Angeles.
The bilingual funeral mass for Officer Juan Diaz began at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The 24-year-old officer had loved classic cars, and his fellow officers honored him in that small way.
“The officer’s going to be driven up in a vintage hearse, that he wanted to drive up in, if that ever happened,” LAPD Lt. Chris Ramirez said.
Among the numerous uniformed LAPD officers on hand for the 90-minute service was Chief Michel Moore. Also attending were retired LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
L.A. Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez presided over the funeral service. Father Tesfaldet Asghedom, a pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Lincoln Heights, delivered the homily.
“I know for the family, (in) a moment like this you play games,” Garcetti said. “Friends and loved ones say, `What if?’ A mother and a father say, `What if he hadn’t become a police officer? What if he hadn’t gone to that place that night?…What if he hadn’t just confronted a tagger?’
“I want to make some sense of that for the family,” Garcetti said. “I think all of us in this room still believe that there is good and bad, and that there is right and wrong. And when men and women stand up for what is right and what is good, society works. And even more than that: lives are saved. … Juan Diaz didn’t just do what is right some of the time; he did what was right all of the time.”
Diaz was off-duty on July 27 when he went to a taco stand in Lincoln Heights with his girlfriend and her two brothers. While there, he confronted a gang member who was tagging a sidewalk and asked him to stop and was shot.
The young officer was killed, and another man was critically wounded. On Aug. 2, two men and a woman were arrested in the slaying during a series of early-morning raids in Riverside County. The two men could face the death penalty.
Moore called Diaz “a young man filled with such life and possibility, so senselessly taken from us… Today, as our faith and culture would have it, is to be a day of celebration and remembrance; to all of us, it’s a profound day of sorrow and loss.”
Diaz was born and raised in the Northeast L.A. area and had first declared his intention to become an LAPD officer when he was just 6 years old.
Following the services, the flag-draped casket was escorted from the cathedral past rows of officers standing at attention. Diaz will be taken to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, where he will be laid to rest with full honors.
Reputed gang members Cristian Facundo, 20, of Murrieta, and Francisco Talamantes III, 23, of Temecula, are charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder in Diaz’s killing. The third suspect, 18-year-old Ashlynn Smith is charged with shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and vandalism.
According to police, the shooting of Diaz came amid a roughly 90-minute crime spree carried out by the three suspects and an unidentified 21-year- old Los Angeles woman.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)