A young Los Angeles police officer gunned down while off duty at a taco stand was memorialized by his chief because of his big smile, bright mind and dedication to public service.
Hundreds of fellow officers packed the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Monday to honor Officer Juan Jose Diaz.
“Juan’s death leaves a lasting wound, his murder a lasting scar,” authorities Chief Michel Moore told mourners.
The 24-year old officer was shot July 27 after facing a guy spray-painting gang graffiti on a wall. Diaz was hanging out and eating tacos with his girlfriend and her two brothers in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood.
Diaz is going to be remembered as somebody with humility and sharp sense of humor who “continually strove to help others,” Moore explained.
The officer’s family and friends wore white and were seated in the front pews of the downtown cathedral, where Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez presided over a bilingual Mass.
His sister, Anahi Diaz, said her brother had wanted to become a police officer because he was 5 years old. She laughed as she recalled him eating cereal from a Los Angeles Dodgers batting helmet and singing country music — “and not very well.”
A hearse arrived in the Palace with a police motorcycle escort. After the ceremony, the casket was escorted for interment in Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills cemetery.
Diaz was on the force for two decades and has been assigned to the police department’s Professional Standards Bureau, which conducts investigations into section employees.
He was shot as he and his group tried to push away to avoid a violent confrontation, researchers said. Among his girlfriend’s brothers was severely hurt but is expected to recover.
Two men and a woman were arrested Aug. 2 in relation to the killing. They have been identified as Francisco Talamantes, 23; Cristian Facundo, 20; and Ashlynn Smith, 18, authorities said. They are due in court next month on multiple charges including murder with a gang allegation, prosecutors said.
It was not immediately clear if the defendants had acquired attorneys.
Detectives said the shooting happened during a two-hour set of crimes by gang members who included another tried shooting nearby in which the goals were unhurt.
Diaz is the 2nd off-duty officer murdered in the Los Angeles area in recent months. In June, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano was shot in a Jack in the Box restaurant in the suburb of Alhambra.
The defendant, Rhett Nelson of Utah, can be charged in the killing of specialist Russian snowboarder Dmitry Koltsov. Police have stated that the killings of Solano and Koltsov are thought to be random. Nelson has pleaded not guilty in both cases.