Tina Kerbrat, the first woman Los Angeles police officer killed in the line of duty, was buried following a poignant funeral in which her children presented some of their favorite toys as a final gift to their mother.
As their father fought to constrain his grief, 3-year-old Nicole and 6-year-old Craig offered a baby doll and a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” as part of the gifting tradition of the Catholic Mass.
About 3,500 mourners, mostly uniformed officers, jammed St. John Baptist de la Salle Church in Granada Hills and overflowed outside to say goodbye to their fallen comrade, who was shot Monday, Feb. 11, 1991, while on patrol duty.
Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahony presided over the service, offering words of comfort for Kerbrat’s husband and children and praise for the police officers who face a “tremendous level of violence” on the city’s streets each day.
“It is very deep sadness we all feel in our hearts today,” Mahony said. “It isn’t Just one family minus a wife and a mother, but all of us who feel the pain of her loss.”
Looking out at the hundreds of police officers gathered for the ceremony, Mahony added: “As you patrol the killing streets of Los Angeles, all of us owe you incredible gratitude…”
“We, as a community, have not done what is necessary to make our streets, houses, neighbors, friends, and children safe,” he said. “We have failed all of you. Until all of our citizens are filled with deep enough resolve… it is unfair for us to expect you to find the mysterious solution to these problems.”
“We must walk with our heads lowered in shame,” Mahony said.
Kerbrat’s husband Tim, a Los Angeles city fire inspector, clutched his daughter on his lap during the ceremony, while Craig sat on the lap of a fellow firefighter.
Kerbrat, 34, a rookie officer assigned to the North Hollywood Division, was shot in the head as she and her partner made a routine stop in Sun Valley to question two men suspected of drinking in public.
Kerbrat’s partner, Officer Earl Valladares, killed the gunman, 32-year-old Jose Amaya, whom police described as an illegal immigrant from El Salvador.
Officer Kerbrat was the second Los Angeles Police Department officer in four months to be gunned down by an alien marked for deportation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
“Tina treasured her family,” said police Chaplain Simon Garcia, who delivered the eulogy. “She shared her love, her hopes, her dreams with her husband, and she was hopelessly devoted to her children.” Tina is also survived by her mother, Beverly Zapata, grandfather, Frank Barrett, brothers, Daniel Zapata, John Zapata, Frank Zapata, and sisters, Elaine Ohara and Monique Aston.
The Rev. Christian Van Liefde, a city fire Department chaplain who married the Kerbrat’s and baptized their two children, remembered the slain officer as a woman of deep love, faith, and strength.
“In many a locker room and police station, we have silently wept many tears,” Van Liefde said. “She touched so many lives in the parish and in her love for neighbors and friends.”
Mourners stood stone-faced as law enforcement officers saluted the casket, which was carried to the hearse by six white-gloved police pallbearers. Mayor Tom Bradley and City Council members attended the funeral.
After the funeral Mass, 185 police-driven motorcycles and scores of patrol cars wound their way to San Fernando Mission Cemetery.
At the cemetery, three mounted policemen and a riderless horse – symbolizing the fallen police officer – led the procession to the grave site.
A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace,” and four police helicopters flew overhead. Later, officers honored their slain colleague with a 21-gun salute and a mournful playing of “Taps.”