Latres and Darwynn Cole waved at each police car that left Dallas Police officer Patrick Zamarripa's funeral at Wilkerson-Greines. pmoseley@star-telegram.com
Latres and Darwynn Cole waved at each police car that left Dallas Police officer Patrick Zamarripa's funeral at Wilkerson-Greines. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth

Zamarripa honored as ‘peacekeeper’ who paid the ‘ultimate sacrifice’

By Jeff Caplan

JeffCaplan@star-telegram.com

July 16, 2016 03:25 PM

UPDATED July 16, 2016 07:16 PM

FORT WORTH

More than anything, Dallas police officer Patrick Zamarripa was a peacekeeper.

At home with family, while serving in the Navy in Iraq and on the streets of Dallas, Zamarripa relished his role.

“Patrick’s family described him as vigilant, reliable and kind,” said Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson. “He was quite naturally a mediator and protector of his family. He played the role of peacekeeper in his family and wherever he was found.”

Olson presided over Zamarripa’s funeral Mass on Saturday morning at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center, which was filled with family, friends and police officers from across Texas and the nation, as well as officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and London.

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Zamarripa, 32, a Fort Worth native, died on the night of July 7, when he and other officers were “engaged in fostering peace,” Olson said, protecting protesters at the Black Lives Matter march in downtown Dallas.

His was the final funeral among the other slain officers: Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, 48, Dallas police; Michael Krol, 40, Dallas police; Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, Dallas police; and Brent Thompson, 43, DART police.

“He understood being a police officer was not just a career, it was to answer a call from God to be a peacekeeper, for Patrick served joyfully,” said Olson, of the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese.

For his work as a peacekeeper, “we thank him,” Olson said. “And we thank God for Patrick’s life.”

Without love, none of what we do matters. A house divided cannot stand.

Dallas police Chief David Brown

Dallas Police Chief David Brown talked about Zamarripa’s commitment to service, first in the Navy and later for the Dallas Police Department.

Brown talked of the importance of love while serving, saying, “If you can’t treat people right it doesn’t mean anything.”

Brown called the fallen officer Patricio and described his service as “personal.”

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“What’s more personal than being willing to give your life in your service?” Brown asked. “That’s the example here.”

“We miss Patricio, we miss our four other fallen brothers, but this sacrifice is necessary.”

Brown said as police officers, “Our service to our society is our sacrifice.”

“The question is to the community, what will your service be?” Brown asked. “Police officers have nothing else to give in their service but their lives. … It’s why we call it the ultimate sacrifice. It is the highest example of our love for this country, for our cities, for our neighborhoods.”

“Patricio,” Brown said, “has made that clear, crystal clear.”

He ended by saying, “This family is hurting. They are grieving.

“This family needs to know that you support us and we support them,” Brown said. “God bless Patricio, Godspeed, and we’ll see you again.”

Brown received a standing ovation for his comments.

‘This one hits hard’

After the funeral, a miles-long procession along Interstate 20 took Zamarripa to Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, where he will be buried as a hero, a peacekeeper — as a police officer and Petty Officer 1st Class in the Navy, after receiving a posthumous promotion during Friday night’s rosary.

Christina Liles of Arlington was cleaning the house and watching the funeral on her cellphone when her husband told her that a lot of people were gathering on a bridge above I-20 near their home. She came as soon as she could with her daughter and was in awe of the line of police cars in the procession.

“My heart feels for these officers; they are our front line,” Liles said. “I wanted to come pay my respects.”

Traci Prendergast of Arlington choked up as she talked about what brought her to watch the procession.

“I just wanted to show them how many people are here to support them,” Prendergast said. “It tore me apart, what happened.”

Other officers killed include: Sr. Crpl. Lorne, Ahrens, 48, Dallas police; Michael Krol, 40, Dallas police; Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, Dallas police; and Brent Thompson, 43, DART police.

Thousands of law enforcement officers converged in Dallas and Fort Worth this week to honor their fallen brothers. The Fort Worth Police Department served as lead hosting agency for the New York and Chicago police departments, the Utah state police and others, said officer Jimmy Pollozani, Fort Worth police spokesman.

“You hear about these types of situations all the time on the news media, but once the nerve strikes in your back yard, it’s really hard,” Pollozini said. “Then you realize the dangers the police officers face on day-to-day operations when they put their uniforms on.”

Remembering Officer Patrick Zamarripa: A Paschal teammate's tribute

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Many of the officers from other states attended the funerals for all five of the fallen officers.

“This one hit hard,” said Chicago police officer Juan Gali. “It gets harder: You’re burying your own brothers. It’s sad. You’re watching a wife [who lost her] husband. He’s not coming home tonight.”

Officers described the service, which was closed to the media at the request of the Zamarripa family, as obviously somber but also upbeat at times. It was streamed live on wfaa.com.

‘Don’t let it end here’

The procession was slow arriving at the national cemetery, where more supporters braved the hot summer weather to pay their respects.

The military cemetery is an emotional place for Cindy Johnson of Mansfield. Her late husband, Gene Johnson, who was a New Mexico police officer, is buried at the cemetery in honor of his service in the Army.

“I have a lot of memories here,” Johnson said in the shade of a tree, as the procession could be seen slowly making its way through the cemetery’s winding roads toward the service, where hundreds of people, almost all in dark blue uniforms, quietly waited.

“I feel law enforcement officers are not supported today,” Johnson added. “My biggest fear is that after today we will forget what happened. I want people to remember to support them tomorrow, not just today. Don’t let it end here.”

Marcella Mendez, who said she is a friend of Zamarripa’s family, said she is “angry and brokenhearted.”

“He served in the military, and he came from a military family,” Mendez said. “He fought for our country, and then to get assassinated that way — it’s unfair.”

‘He had a heart of gold’

Zamarripa graduated in 2001 from Fort Worth’s Paschal High School, where he played second base on the baseball team and played the trumpet in the band. Before Paschal, he attended Rosemont Middle School, where then-band director Andrew Williams said Zamarripa made his mark.

“Back in the ’90s at Rosemont, it was kind of inner city — lots of gang activity, lots of problem kids,” Williams previously told the Star-Telegram. “He was always just like a bright light.”

A peacekeeper, as Olson said.

My heart feels for these officers; they are our frontline. I wanted to come pay my respects.

Christina Liles of Arlington

Hundreds of family members, friends, fellow officers and members of the Navy paid tribute to Zamarripa at Greenwood Funeral Home in Fort Worth during the weeklong public viewing and again at Friday’s rosary.

After serving in the Navy, which he joined after graduating from Paschal — only months before the 9-11 terrorist attacks — he returned home to Fort Worth and answered his calling to law enforcement as a police officer.

He was calm, contemplative and often private, preferring to help others rather than accept it, friends said. He had a sense of humor, he didn’t hold grudges, and he so often realized the bigger picture of race, community and service.

“The [funeral] was beautiful and everything that’s said about Patrick, he had a heart of gold, and he served his country well,” said Mike Hernandez, a former Paschal classmate and longtime friend of the Zamarripa family. “All of the fallen officers are going to be remembered forever. Something good is going to come out of this. It looks like people across the country are getting together, and this did serve for that cause, for people to get together and discuss the issues we have in our country right now.”

Tucson police officer Ramon Vasquez agreed.

“My hope is that their deaths aren’t in vain and people see that, you know, our lives do matter also; all lives matter,” Vasquez said. “That is my hope.

“Going through all these services this week just showed me that it’s not an us-against-them. We have support from everybody in the community, and I just hope that everybody else who didn’t attend the service can see that, and we all can come together.”

The temperature topped 95 degrees as the services ended, and groups of officers gathered to talk and snap pictures.

Detective Sgt. Robert Burns of the Baltimore Police Department said that he had never traveled so far for a law enforcement funeral but that the targeting of so many police officers made this case especially horrific.

“I thought it was a terrorist act,” Burns said, blaming what he called a hostile environment fomented by protest organizers. “I thought it was disgusting. It made me sick.”

But he said he was optimistic that the open discussion it has created will help mend emotional wounds.

“I think so, once we get everything out in the open,” Burns said. “Police departments are trying to change their ways. I knew the Dallas Police Department led the nation in their de-escalation training. I think that will be a growing trend you’ll see across the United States.”

Staff writers Azia Branson and Robert Cadwallader contributed to this report.

Jeff Caplan: 817-390-7005, @Jeff_Caplan