Slain San Diego officer remembered as passionate helper
EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) — Jonathan De Guzman constantly prodded his fellow officers to excel at their jobs, saying “much work to do. Must catch the bad guys,” words remembered Friday at a memorial service for the San Diego police officer slain in the line of duty.
More than 4,000 people attended the public service at a church in the city of El Cajon, east of San Diego. The crowd included more than 2,000 police officers and elected officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Many did not know De Guzman — who was shot five times July 28 while sitting in his patrol car after his partner had approached a man on a dark San Diego street last week — but said they were moved to show their support for police because of the recent killings of officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas.
“Every day all the officers that protect and serve and save lives — that happens way more than the other stuff — so I want to say ‘thank you’ to them and ‘we’ve got your back,’” said Krishna Arvan, 44, who watched as a procession of 200 uniformed motor officers and 600 police cars that started in San Diego escorted the hearse as it entered the parking lot of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon.
Residents lined the street outside the Southern Baptist church, waving flags and holding signs. A blue poster board on a pole read “Back The Blue.”
De Guzman, who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines when he was in his 20s, was remembered for his big smile and passion for helping others. Known as “J.D.,” he spent 16 years on the force, much of it patrolling a culturally rich area of immigrants where more than 50 languages are spoken.
His family initially questioned whether De Guzman was too nice to be a cop, Faulconer said. However, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said that kindness helped him build rapport with the community and fight crime in his area, where robberies had dropped by 69 percent.
“J.D. was the foundation and strength and set a daily example for others to emulate,” Zimmerman said. “J.D. never, never uttered a bad word about anyone, even the most hardened criminal that he had just arrested. J.D. believed that everyone could be saved and improve their life.”
The decorated officer was given a Purple Heart after he was stabbed during a traffic stop 13 years ago, joined the SWAT team in his 40s, and was honored for taking down a suspect armed with a shotgun and pipe bombs. His lastly served on an elite anti-gang unit.
Officials say De Guzman, 43, was still wearing his seatbelt when he was shot multiple times. Police arrested a 52-year-old construction worker with a criminal record for the shootings, but they have not determined a motive for the attack.
De Guzman’s two children spoke at the service Friday. De Guzman loved country music and singing Karaoke. His 10-year-old daughter, Amira, said he would have been happy to see so many turn out for him.
His 17-year-old son, Jonathan, told the church his father recently got angry with him for wavering on his dream to go into the film industry and told him he would be there to push him to never settle.
“He said he’d always push me when I start to lose faith in myself. Yet now he’s gone, and he won’t be there when I graduate. He won’t button my cuff links or fix my tie. He won’t be there if I get married. He won’t see me graduate college, and he won’t be at any more of my competitions or important events,” he said, choking back tears.
Later he added: “His death motivates me to achieve my dreams and create a positive impact towards the world.”
It was the second service in two days.
A smaller crowd on Thursday mourned De Guzman at his family church in Bonita, the small suburb where he was to be buried Friday with a flag covered in pins from his fellow SWAT team officers.
His partner, Officer Wade Irwin, 32, was shot in the throat but was expected to recover.
Chief Zimmerman said she is grateful Irwin’s health is improving daily.
“I am certain that J.D. is looking down at Wade, just sending him encouragement to keep getting better and to return to the team,” Chief Zimmerman said. “After all he would say: ‘Much work to do. Must catch the bad guys.’ ”
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat contributed to this report.