More than 500 uniformed officers were waiting silently for the memorial service for slain Torrance police Officer Thomas Joseph Keller to begin, when someone started whistling the “Star Spangled Banner.”
The whistler, who didn’t even realize he was whistling, was acting out his nervousness in a manner that underscored the sadness of the event.
Keller, who was shot and killed on Thursday, April 17, by a 22-year-old illegal alien in a Torrance sporting goods store, is the third officer in the 65-year history of the Torrance Police Department to be slain in the line of duty.
The last time a Torrance police officer was killed in the line of duty was December 22, 1968, when Keller was 8 years old.
Torrance Chief of Police Donald E. Nash, who stood behind a large emblematic police badge draped in black sash, called Keller “an outstanding officer who worked with compassion and dedication and knew about fear.”
“No one can explain why a crazed gunman did what he did,” said Nash.
Added Torrance Mayor Katy Geissert, “To think his life could have ended by a deranged individual is beyond our comprehension.”
A coroner’s autopsy disclosed that Rafael Hernandez Navarro, an illegal alien and a veteran of the Mexican army, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest soon after shooting Keller.
“Tom Keller was a true cop who faced pimps, prostitutes, dope addicts, thieves, liars and cons with professionalism and skill,” said Father Bill Caffrey, the police chaplain.
Lt. Robert M. Armstrong said a tree in Keller’s honor would be planted on the lawn in front of the Torrance Police Department.
Keller, who would have turned 26 on April 29, was due to be married in August. His fiancée, 25-year-old Patty Dahlia, sat with Keller’s family during the 35-minute outdoors service that concluded with a fly-by by five helicopters.
Besides Dahlen, Keller is survived by his parents, Eleanor and Max, a brother, John and two sisters, Ann Keller and Patricia Muraoka.