On the afternoon of February 20, 2004 the Los Angeles Police Department suffered the loss of one of its fine young officers in the line of duty, and the State of California recorded its second Line of Duty loss in the New Year.
Officer Ricardo Lizarraga, 31 years old, with less than 3 years as an L.A.P.D. officer, along with his partner Officer Joel Ruiz, responded to a domestic violence call in the Newton Division. Upon arrival at the location of the call the two officers were confronted by 32 year old known gang member and convicted felon Kendrick Johnson. Johnson produced a handgun and began firing at the officers, one of the rounds fatally wounding Lizarraga. Officer Ruiz returned fire; Johnson fleeing the scene, and being arrested a short time later cowering in an alley. Kendrick Johnson did not live to stand trial for the senseless murder of a police officer. On February 24 he was found hanging from the bars of his County jail cell. He died the next day.
Ricardo Lizarraga was born and raised in West Los Angeles. He graduated from Hamilton High School, where he excelled in athletics, attended Santa Monica City College, and was employed by a super market chain for 10 years prior to entering the Los Angeles Police Department.
Lizarraga’s fellow officers and command staff at the Newton Division had nothing but praise for the quiet, efficient young officer. Captain Fabian Lizarraga, no relation, commanding officer of the Newton Division characterized Ricardo as “a husky young officer who could look intimidating, but all you had to do was talk to him and you would immediately know what a really nice kid he was”.
Police Chief William Bratton expressed his grief over the death of Officer Lizarraga and hoped that it would serve to rally the City around its police department and develop a “mighty resolve” to counter violence in the streets. He cited the dramatic increase in the number of incidents involving criminals shooting at police vehicles as an indication of how serious the problem of street violence had become.
On Friday morning, February 27, several thousand mourners gathered at the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles to pay their final respects to a fallen hero. The thousands of uniformed Los Angeles police officers and officers from jurisdictions state-wide were joined by family members, elected officials and dignitaries, including Mayor James Hahn, District Attorney Steve Cooley and the ever present at law enforcement funerals, Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
Cardinal Roger Mahony in eulogizing Officer Lizarraga spoke forcefully of the need for more police officers on the streets of Los Angeles, “when we can count more murders here than soldiers who have died in an active war in Iraq, something is terribly wrong”, the Cardinal pleaded.
Officer Ricardo Lizarraga was laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. He is survived by his wife Joyce, his parents Candolario and Cristina Lizarraga and siblings Jorge, Lorena and Laura.
A trust fund has been established and contributions may be made in the name of Officer Ricardo Lizarraga, “Blue Ribbon Fund”, Newton Division, Los Angeles Police Department, 3400 So. Central Ave., Los Angeles, CA., 90011