The Escondido Police Department held funeral services Monday for a rookie police officer who was shot and killed in a domestic violence incident.
Family, friends and colleagues of Officer Laura Perez gathered at CSU San Marcos in the University Student Union building to remember the slain officer described as a "rising star" in the department. She had been a candidate for rookie of the year after just nine months on Escondido's force.
She also was a devoted mom of a 4-year-old, Suzeth. As an officer, she had been inspired at a very young age by her own mother's efforts to keep peace in the neighborhood.
Around 8:30 a.m. a large funeral procession left the police department on Centre City Parkway to accompany a white hearse and other vehicles carrying the officer's close family.
Among those waiting for the procession to begin was Lt. Al Owens who helped train the rookie officer and prepare her for her job interview.
When thinking back on her death Owens says it still seems like a “bad dream.”
He described Perez as “definitely a rising star.”
Not only was she the second female ever to get honors at the Palomar Police Academy in 2013, but she was a consummate professional, he said.
“She did everything the right way and probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Owens said.
He says Officer Perez' four-year-old daughter was the world to her. She was big on education so the department hopes to raise as much as they can to help support the officer's daughter.
Palomar Police Academy Director Shannon Dreyer said Perez's death was a reminder of police officers' vulnerability to the same crimes for which they protect us.
"It is tragic and there are no words to describe the feeling when you lose somebody you know and somebody who is just an amazing person like Laura," Dreyer said.
Dreyer spoke during the emotional memorial service. Perez's brother also spoke for the first time since his sister's death.
"I'm not surprised to hear the stories that she was always being a hard worker," said Perez's brother, Gerardo Rios. "She always did everything with the beautiful smile of hers that we will all miss now."