Los Angeles

As Young LAPD Officer is Mourned, Search Continues for Killer

As officers mourned the death of a young LAPD officer killed while out for tacos with his girlfriend, the manhunt for the killer continued Monday. Juan Diaz, 24, was shot and killed early Saturday morning near the Lincoln Heights neighborhood where he grew up.

A memorial for Diaz continued to grow outside the front door of the LAPD headquarters with a handwritten sign that reads: "Rest easy brother — we'll hold the line from here."

"I couldn't believe it when I saw his face," said Frederico Moreno, a friend who went to high school with Diaz. "I am still in shock he's gone."

The officer was off-duty at the time, grabbing a late-night bite to eat with his girlfriend and her two brothers at a taco stand.

He was killed after confronting a group of suspected gang members who were spraying graffiti on a wall. A brother of Diaz' girlfriend was also shot Saturday, but is expected to survive. His friends say they're not surprised he stood up to the taggers. "Before he became a cop — if he saw something bad he would speak out — that's the kind of guy he was," said Martin Gomez, another friend.

Diaz, who graduated from the police academy two years ago, was assigned to the department's Professional Standards Bbureau, which investigates department personnel.

His friends say he'd dreamed of being a police officer since he was a young boy growing up in a gang-ridden neighborhood not far from where he was killed.

"Growing up you wouldn't go out past sunset or walk," Gomez said. "Be careful what you wear — the wrong color or wrong hat."

The mayor ordered all city flags to fly at half-staff in Diaz' honor and officers are wearing black bands of mourning on their badges. LAPD detectives are searching for surveillance video and following numerous leads.

Sgt. Manuel Hernandez had a message for the killer.

"We're gonna find you," he said. "Only a matter of time ... Might as well turn yourself in."

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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