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At Candlelight Vigil, Fond Memories Of Fallen Police Officers

More than 1,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in downtown Dallas Monday night to remember the five officers who died during last week's shootings.

As Dallas Police Chief David Brown took the stage, he was greeted warmly – and with lots of applause.

The past few days have been filled with sadness and anger over the killings of five police officers. But Brown and his department have received an outpouring of support from the public. More than a thousand were at the vigil.

Brown told the crowd that the fallen officers were superheroes – like Superman.

“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in single bound,” Brown said.

Families of those superheroes are hurting right now, Brown said.

“So what’s our mission today? It’s helping these families understand how to conquer this tragedy,” he said.

Among the speakers were friends of the fallen police officers. Like Dallas Police Officer Josh Rodriguez who shared memories of Officer Patrick Zamarripa.

He told the story of one of Zamarripa’s last acts – the same day as the shooting. A homeless man had walked up to the officer, complaining that his chips had been stolen.

Zamarripa went to a store and bought the man chips and a drink.

“He saw no color, nothing mattered to him except that you were human and that is why he is loved so much because of the genuine love and the goodness he had for other people,” Rodriguez said.

Dallas Sr. Cpl. Marcie St. John spoke about her partner on the beat, Sgt. Michael Smith. She described him as a leader and who loved working. The past few days have been gut-wrenching, she says.

“This tragedy has been a sucker-punched the department that I have served for more than 24 years, a department that I still love, has knocked the breath out of us,” she said. “It has. We are sad, we are overwhelmed we are in disbelief, we are in mourning and yes we are angry.”

St. John said they should channel that emotion toward fostering an environment of hope.

Sr. Cpl. Jaime Castro shared stories about Lorne Ahrens.

Castro says Ahrens wrote good reports and cited laws word for word. Castro was there when Ahren died in the hospital.

“Lorne, I know you’re up there listening brother and I want you to know I was there outside the window by your side to see you take your final breath,” Castro said. “You weren’t alone. I had your back and you had ours.”


Our earlier story:

Each speaker offered memories of a fallen officer.

Officer Josh Rodriguez talked about Officer Patrick Zamarripa.

“Right now the whole country has been able to see what kind of father, sailor, friend and police officer he was,” Rodriguez told the crowd. “He was truly a remarkable man. He loved this country and he served it honorably for 15 years and he served this department and protected this community and ultimately gave his life for it. These are more than officers who were taken from us, they were people too.  They were loved and respected by so many not just because of what they did but because of who they were. Patrick loved this job. His commitment and his work ethic were contagious and others strived to be better because of him.”

Sr. Cpl. Marcie St. John talked about Sgt. Mike Smith.

“This tragedy has been a sucker-punch to the department that I have served for more than 24 years, a department that I still love,” St. John said. “It has knocked the breath out of us. It has. We are sad, we are overwhelmed we are in disbelief, we are in mourning and yes we are angry. But we do have choices. We can choose to let the anger fester inside of us and rag us down to a darker place. Or we can take our agony and anguish and direct it toward good. Toward fostering an environment of hope. … One thing that everybody says and it is very true is that Michael was a leader. Plain and simple. He was a leader. It didn’t matter if he was in a uniform or if he as working with his daughters teaching them to play softball or making them frogs to put in his daughter Caroline’s books. …  It was who Mike was, as a man, as an officer, as a husband and as a father. I and those that love Mike the most … honor his legacy by choosing … not to let our anger drag us into a darker place. But instead we continue to Mike’s fight for good and to not let the evil prevail. We will continue to protect and serve this wonderful city that mike loved so much.” 

'Show my support and love'

Melissa Davila was among the thousands who gathered outside City Hall. She carried an American flag and wore a flag scarf to the vigil. She said she came to show support to the officers, to their families and to the city.

“Dallas has been my home for several years and I’ve always seen the law enforcement community come together and so something this tragic happening is just catastrophic,” Davila says. “I would never even imagine that would happen here in this city and our city did not deserve this. These officers did not deserve this and their families do not deserve this. So I wanted to come and show my support and my love.”


James Hutchins, senior pastor at New Life Community Church in Frisco, was at the vigil.

While many talk about wanting better relations between residents and police, Hutchins is doing his part in the Collin County town. Hutchins has a monthly meeting with an assistant police chief in Frisco – to provide him a perspective for his officers about how the community views law enforcement.  

“One of our problems is we’re isolated,” Hutchins says. “Isolation isn’t familiarity, it makes you uncomfortable and it perpetuates itself and that’s when you have problems because I don’t see you and you don’t see me of different persuasions, so understanding, coming together and on purpose communicating and trying to understand one another."

Hutchins says he sees his role as trying to bridge a gap between residents and police -- and to get a better sense of both sides.

“The fact of the matter is as civilians when they see a young black man killed, the video shows what they see," Hutchins says. "That perpetuates anger. That’s real. But when you see an officer and hear him talk, he sees something different than what they see. I’m trying to be a liaison between him and the community.”

Obama to speak Tuesday

President Barack Obama will arrive in Dallas Tuesday for an interfaith memorial service at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Arts District. 

Funeral services have been set for four out of the five fallen officers. Two separate services will be held Wednesday -- honoring Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens and DART officer Brent Thompson. A service for Sgt. Michael Smith is scheduled for Thursday. Officer Patrick Zamarripa will be remembered Saturday.

Video: Watch The Vigil

(Rewind video from FOX10 Phoenix to the beginning.)



Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.