In the early hours of August 2nd, twenty-seven-year-old, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Juan Escalante, was gunned down in front of his parent’s house in Cypress Park. At approximately 5:40 a.m., while preparing to leave for his assignment at the County’s Mens Central Jail, Deputy Escalante was confronted by two gang members. Witnesses reported Escalante drew his weapon and identified himself as a deputy before the suspects opened fire.
Police later arrested two Avenues Gang members for the murder of Deputy Escalante. Detectives believe the shooting may have been related to Escalante’s job at the jail, where he guarded many of the county’s most dangerous inmates, including members of the Mexican Mafia.
Deputy Escalante is survived by his wife Celeste, and their three young children; his parents, and two brothers. He was the son of immigrant parents from the Mexican state of Yucatan. Escalante and his family had been staying with his parents while he and his wife prepared to buy a home in Pomona.
On August 8th more than 3,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to say farewell to Juan Abel Escalante. He was remembered as a man who spent most days at home with his children. He loved music, attended Mass on Sundays and, from a young age, learned to value and protect his family.
The mayor, the sheriff, Escalante’s captain and two family members spoke during the ceremony.
“When it comes to the young people from Abel’s part of town, we tend to only hear about the kids sucked into lives of violence and crime,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “Abel was a man who rejected the conventional wisdom and defied the odds. He turned away from the destructive forces entrenched in his community and refused to give in to the elements of hate and division.” Villaraigosa described Escalante as “true example of everything we could wish for in a public servant.”
A U.S. Army reservist, Escalante had worked for the Sheriff’s Department for 2 1/2 years. He was assigned to the “high power” unit, where dangerous inmates are housed in single-man cells.
Following the service, a funeral procession, which included dozens of sheriff’s buses and patrol motorcycles, made its way across four empty freeways to Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello, where Deputy Escalante was laid to rest.