Friends and family members wearing white shirts with an image of Officer Roberto Sanchez's badge on the front gathered Wednesday morning at a memorial service for the 32-year-old Los Angeles Police Department officer who was killed in a hit-and-run crash involving a driver accused of intentionally ramming his patrol vehicle.
Rows of uniformed officers from several agencies were seated alongside the officer's friends and family members at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles as the six-year department veteran's flag-draped casket was escorted past. He was the third LAPD officer to die in a crash since March, when Officer Nicholas Lee was killed in a crash on a Beverly Hills street.
Lee's family members were seated in the front row Wednesday morning.
A fourth LAPD officer, Detective Ernest Allen, was killed in a cement truck crash six days after the Sanchez collision on the same Beverly Hills street where Lee was killed.
"For the third time in as many months, I look out on a sea of blue that is awash in grief," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. "Today, that grief is compounded by anger. That grief is mitigated with resolve. Roberto didn't just die, he was murdered."
Sanchez was killed when a driver intentionally rammed his sport utility vehicle into the officer's patrol car to help a friend who was driving a vehicle involved in a May 3 pursuit in Harbor City, according to police.
Officer Sanchez is survived by his wife Sonia Sanchez and parents Francisco and Patricia Sanchez. His family moved from Mexico City to Santa Ana in 1981. He met his future wife when he attended Saddleback Ranch High School -- they were high school sweethearts who married in June 2008, just two months before Sanchez joined the Los Angeles Police Academy.
"He had a sense of compassion in the line of duty," said Mayor Eric Garcetti. "He was a hero on the streets of LA and to his family.
Colleagues described him as an introspective and unassuming man who wanted to protect others, which he did with his partner Officer Rich Medina. The two were assigned to Harbor Division as developed a partnership "rarely equaled," according to an LAPD statement.
Medina suffered a broken jaw and other injuries in the crash.
The driver of the SUV left the scene of the crash but was detained later that day. He was identified as Mynor Varela. Varela faces charges of murder, vehicular manslaughter and assault on a peace officer.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges last week.