DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – At the Northeast patrol substation in Dallas, symbols of mourning have returned far too soon: flowers on a patrol car and flags flying low.
“It’s tragic,” exclaims Paula Brown, while dropping off a bouquet. “I feel terrible for the family. I feel terrible for the fellow police officers, and I feel terrible for the general loss of the community.”
Frustration and heavy hearts are here as well. News that Dallas police officer Rogelio Santander did not survive an altercation with a Home Depot shoplifting suspect Tuesday has hit the city hard.
“We’re asking that you continue to pray for the family and the DPD family,” said Chief Renee Hall while making a brief statement outside Presbyterian Hospital to announce his passing. “This is going to be a trying time for us.”
Officer Santander was wounded alongside an academy classmate, Officer Crystal Almeida.
Police say she remains hospitalized; but, is improving.
“She is a hard charger, young officer, she’s healthy, she’s making great gains,” says Sgt. Michael Mata, President of the Dallas Police Association. “The doctors here treating her are greatly surprised in the improvement made in the last 24 hours. We just ask for continued prayers. It’s going to be a very, very long road for her.”
Sgt. Mata also heaped praise on Home Depot’s civilian loss prevention officer, Scott Painter, also wounded in the incident. “He is doing exceptionally well also,” added Sgt. Mata. “We want to thank him because just like those officers; he risked his life, too. He took bullets that maybe would have been pointed in the direction of our officers, and he took them.”
Officer Santander was single and a 2009 graduate of Dallas’ Skyline High school; but, colleagues say he was also making a name for himself at the Northeast substation where he worked. Sgt. Mata says he will be remembered and his family supported.
“Rogelio was an amazing young man,” says Sgt. Mata. “He is what we want as a Dallas officer. He is what the citizens expect as a Dallas officer. His family obviously raised him right. They raised a good human being… not just a good officer; but, an amazing human being.”
His line of duty loss takes Dallas back down a painful path.
“It was very hard July 7th,” said Denise Wilson, while dropping off flowers at the growing memorial…and with her voice breaking, added, “I just wish it would stop.”
Sue Hastings dropped off flowers as well and says she lives near the Home Depot where the officers and worker were wounded. She is puzzled about how the situation turned fatal.
“You have to be a little crazy to shoot anybody… but, to shoot a cop?” questioned Hastings…and then as she spoke about the dangers that officers face daily, dissolved into tears.
“God bless ’em… God bless ’em.”