DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – He died serving his community, and North Texas is now honoring him. The funeral for Dallas Police Department officer Rogelio Santander started at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall. Guests from all over the country were in attendance, with as many as 4,000 people expected.
It was one week ago that Santander was shot during a shoplifting incident at a Home Depot store in north Dallas.
Workers from that Home Depot store were among those who attended a public visitation at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Dallas on Monday night, along with several Dallas city leaders, members of the Dallas PD and the 27-year-old officer’s family and friends from as far away as Florida and Ohio.
Even some people who did not know Santander personally were in North Texas to be at the Tuesday service and say goodbye to the respected officer. As has been the case with other police funerals over the years, many officers from across the nation have traveled to Dallas as a show of support.
Police from New York, Boston, Chicago and Detroit attended Monday night’s visitation.
Shortly before the funeral, Santander’s body was escorted from Dallas to the church in Rockwall. After the service, another police procession will be held as Santander’s body moves to the burial site at Restland Cemetery on Greenville Avenue, back in Dallas. Expect traffic delays between the two cities on Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, a memorial continues to grow outside of the Northeast Substation, where Santander worked. A collection of signs, balloons, flags and flowers adorn a squad car, and members of the community kept stopping by over the weekend to pay their respects to the fallen officer and add to the tribute.
At a vigil last Thursday night, Santander was praised for his work ethic, his smile and his sacrifice.
“I consider him to be a hero, because that’s what he is,” said Deputy Chief Avery Moore. “We take this job because we love the community, we love the department and unfortunately sometimes we lose our lives. It is extremely difficult when it’s someone you know.”
Santander leaves behind his parents, his younger brother and his girlfriend of many years. His uncle said that, although this is a difficult time, the family is very proud. “The family is hanging in there and giving their last goodbyes,” added uncle Mauricio Garcia. “That was his dream and he accomplished his dream.”
Santander was not the only victim of last week’s shooting in Dallas. Officer Crystal Almeida and Home Depot loss prevention officer Scott Painter were also injured. They were all trying to take the shoplifting suspect into custody. At last check, Almeida and Painter are still in the hospital in critical condition.
Shooting suspect Armando Juarez remains behind bars on charges of capital murder, aggravated assault on a public servant and aggravated assault in retaliation. His bond sits at more than $4 million. Sources said that Juarez was not handcuffed after being told that he was going to jail, which allowed him to pull out a gun and start shooting.