Hundreds of peace officers from throughout the state stood silently on a hillside at a Whittier cemetery honoring the first Inglewood police officer to die in the line of duty in the city’s 80-year history.
Sgt. George Aquilar, 46, a 15-year Police Department veteran described as a crack undercover investigator and SWAT team member, was shot to death on a busy street March 31 as he pursued armed robbers.
An overflow crowd, including police from more than 30 communities as well as city and county officials, attended the morning funeral at St. John Chrysostrum Catholic Church at which Aguilar was eulogized by a colleague as “the most capable officer I have ever known in my 28 years of police service.”
Saying that the slain officer’s undercover skills were “chameleon-like,” Inglewood Lt. Harry Carter told how Aguilar had infiltrated and lived with a dangerous gang of robbers for two months and survived gunfire at point-blank range during a drug raid.
Noting that Aguilar died the day before Good Friday, shot when he stopped to help a robbery victim, Father Paul Montoya said the officer’s death showed that “He was willing to go forth and accept the possibility of sacrificing himself. Without men like him, we have no real society,” Montoya said.
Four suspects have been arrested and charged with murder in the case. The suspected gunman shot and killed himself after a high-speed chase the night of the crime.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Aguilar was “a child of the streets” raised in the Latino Boyle Heights area, Carter said. In Inglewood, the father of three served as a role model for groups of Latino school children he counseled, he said.
Inglewood leaders and residents said Aguilar’s death was particularly demoralizing to them because it came at a time when crime has been decreasing in the city.
The City Council declared an official day of mourning. Flags flew at half-staff and a trust fund was established for the officer’s 3-year-old son.
“Let’s hope it’s the first and the last officer to be killed,” said Mourner Muhammad Nasardeen, who said his Kiwanis club plans to set up a scholarship for Inglewood high school students in Aguilar’s name.
Outside the church, tears spilled from beneath the sunglasses of a white-gloved officer as the casket was loaded into a hearse.
The long motorcade made its way to Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, where a lone officer playing a bagpipe led the procession. Four police helicopters swooped overhead and a three-gun salute was fired in Aguilar’s honor.