LOS ANGELES CNS) - Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck spoke of an LAPD ``awash in grief'' as fellow officers bid a final farewell today to Roberto C. Sanchez, and he vowed that the people responsible for the officer's death will be brought to justice.
A memorial service for the 32-year-old Los Angeles police officer, fatally injured in a hit-and-run crash in Harbor City May 3, was held this morning at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels downtown.
``For the third time in as many months, I look out at a sea of blue that is awash in grief,'' Beck said. ``But today is different. Today that grief is compounded by anger. Today that grief is mitigated with resolve. Roberto didn't just die -- he was murdered, and the people responsible will be brought to justice.''
His voice breaking at times, Beck said that ``Roberto was a fine police officer. He was a loving son. He was a good friend. He was a great partner.''
Mynor Enrique Varela, 20, of Harbor City, the driver of the SUV that crashed into a patrol car in which Sanchez and a partner were riding, has been charged with murder and other felonies. Authorities allege Varela deliberately rammed the patrol car to aid the escape of a motorist the officers were pursuing for a traffic violation.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gave his eulogy for the officer in English and in Spanish.
``I think I speak for a city that, of course, is sad, but is also angry,'' the mayor said. ``They are sick and tired of burying our city's finest through sins of omission or commission.
``There are those who say we can't prevent this,'' Garcetti continued. ``This is part of policing. To them I say, `We can prevent this.' There are people out there who can stop the things that have happened that are taking our very best.''
Burial of the officer -- who is survived by his wife, Sonia, and his parents, Francisco and Patricia Sanchez -- will be later today at Good Shepherd Cemetery, 8301 Talbert Ave., in Huntington Beach.
Speaking to Sanchez' family, Beck said, ``Sonia, I cannot imagine your grief, to lose the love of your life at the beginning of your life is too tragic to express. Francisco, Patricia, the loss of an only son tears a father's heart out to even imagine.''
Beck also had words for Sanchez' partner and good friend, Richard Medina, who suffered a broken jaw in the crash.
``... Richard, the loss of a partner will be with you forever. I know. You'll move past it, but never beyond it. He will always be in your thoughts,'' said the chief.
The LAPD has been reeling in recent weeks from the deaths of Sanchez and four other officers.
On May 3, LAPD Officer George Nagata, 62, fell ill while on duty and died. Nagata, a 33-year veteran of the force who was last assigned to the Central Station, is survived by his domestic partner, Rosie; son, David; daughter, Kelly; sister, Loretta; and nine grandchildren.
On Friday, off-duty LAPD Detective Ernest L. Allen Sr., 52, a 27-year veteran of the department, was killed when a cement mixer struck his pickup truck along a winding, hilly stretch of road in Beverly Hills. Allen is survived by his mother, two children, two grandchildren, a sister and fiance.
The crash, which happened at 1:53 p.m. Friday in the 1000 block of Loma Vista Drive, also seriously injured the cement truck's driver, who was taken to a hospital for treatment, Beverly Hills police said.
On March 7, LAPD Officer Nicholas Lee, 40, was killed on the same hill on Loma Vista Drive when an out-of-control truck struck his vehicle.
After Allen was killed, Beverly Hills police announced that a 30-day heavy traffic moratorium was in effect on Loma Vista Drive and the rest of the Trousdale area.
On April 5, motorcycle Officer Chris Cortijo, 51, was struck from behind by an SUV while stopped at a red light at Lankershim Boulevard and Saticoy Street in Sun Valley. He died four days later. The driver was charged with driving under the influence of cocaine.