Marshall Crawford's pursuit of his wife's stolen cell phone sparked a connection he'll never forget.
“She was a gentle person in a rough and tumble business and she handled herself with grace and finesse,” Crawford said.
The Encinitas, California, man was describing the impression Escondido Police Officer Laura Perez made in mere minutes when the two met July 19.
Officer Perez helped retrieve the stolen phone and posed for a selfie Crawford wanted to show his wife who had found her phone.
It might be one of the last images of Officer Perez alive.
Five days after this image was taken, Riverside County homicide investigators found the 25-year-old officer’s body in a storage locker in Moreno.
Murrieta Police had arrested her husband, Freddy Perez-Rodas, and charged him with murder.
“It’s just so painful to see someone that young, that vibrant not be with us and I ache
for her daughter and family,” Crawford said.
His interaction with Officer Perez was so memorable, he said, because of the rookie cop’s enthusiasm and sincerity in solving the crime.
“It's not $10 million in gold and she was just as happy to be returning a cell phone as she would have been returning a bank bag,” he recalls.
Crawford reached out to the Escondido Police Department and shared the image. They, in turn, posted it to their Facebook page to honor Officer Perez.
New on the job, Perez was quickly becoming a leader, Chief Craig Carter said. The department is helping the officer’s family as they plan memorial services in Riverside County. They’re also collecting donations for Perez’s 4-year-old daughter Suzette.
Though a private man, Crawford shared a social media post that he was compelled to write about his meeting with the rookie officer.
It’s a message he now wishes he could have given her face to face.
"She was a shining example of how a police officer should conduct themselves and more importantly, how a human being should conduct themselves. Law enforcement and humanity is less today because of her passing,” he wrote.