Officer Ricardo Galvez may not have worked for the Downey Police Department for very long, but he already was popular among his peers.
Galvez, 29, of Whittier, joined the police department as an officer in 2010 and was affectionately known by members of the community as “Ricky.”
“His smile was infectious, and his professionalism was always on display,” Downey Police Chief Carl Charles said Thursday.
Galvez’s life was cut short Wednesday night when detectives said two gunmen opened fire on the officer as he sat in his personal vehicle in the parking lot of Downey’s police headquarters.
Police arrested three people Thursday in connection with his death. Two adults and a juvenile admitted to shooting him during an attempted robbery, said Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Homicide detectives are not looking for any other suspects, he said. Detectives have recovered a handgun, which they believe was used in the deadly shooting.
Assigned to patrol duties, Galvez was a “tremendous young man who loved serving the residents of Downey,” Charles said.
Galvez started with the police department long before he became an officer. In 2006, he served as a police aide.
Two years later, Galvez enlisted in the U.S. Marines Corp as a reservist and completed basic training.
As a U.S. Marine reservist, Galvez was deployed twice overseas, “proudly serving his country,” Charles said. In December 2008, Galvez went off to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the police department’s website.
Following his first tour, which ended January 2010, he was hired as an officer with Downey.
He was deployed again in December 2012. This time, Galvez was sent to Afghanistan.
Galvez, who was not married and did not have children, grew up in the area and maintained a tight bond with his mother, brother and sisters.
“Words cannot express the love and respect we have for Ricky,” Charles said. “Our department is hurting.”
In a statement issued Thursday morning, Downey city officials described Galvez’s death as tragic and asked for prayers for his family and fellow officers.
“Every day, the brave men and women of our Downey Police Department put themselves at personal risk to keep us all safe,” Mayor Luis Marquez said. “We are incredibly sorrowed at the loss of Officer Galvez, and our thoughts and prayers are with all who knew and loved him.”
Alex Saab, Downey’s mayor pro tem, said it was a “difficult time for the entire Downey community.”
Outside the Downey Police Department, officers hugged each other and wiped away tears. In a grim tribute, a line of firefighters stood at attention while a large American flag fluttered on a firetruck ladder.
Shortly after 10 a.m., the police officers and firefighters saluted as Galvez’s body was driven away in a coroner’s van.
Nearby, Galvez’s fellow Marine Corps veterans formed a tight circle and embraced.
“The man was full of joy. He always brought a smile,” said Eleazar Aguilar, who served with Galvez in Gulf Co. 223, based in Pico Rivera. “He was always the leader in the unit, there was no question about that. My heart goes out to his family. Every single Marine feels their pain today.”
“He was a good friend. He was always uplifting. He was a funny guy,” said Alex Garcia, 25, who is a sergeant in the Marine Corps.
Lloyd Vernis, 29, served with Galvez in Ramadi, Iraq. When Vernis opened a barbershop called The Pride on Firestone Boulevard, Galvez persuaded his fellow Downey police officers to patronize the business. Galvez got a haircut there about once a week, Vernis said.
“He loved the Corps. He loved the police force. He was always around here in Downey. He knew everyone, and everyone knew him. … He was just full of life,” Vernis said before breaking down in tears.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles) said in a statement that she was “shocked and saddened” by Galvez’s death.
“My deepest sympathies and prayers are with Officer Galvez’s family, friends, and co-workers in this difficult time," she said.
The area around the Downey Civic Center was shielded with police tape Thursday morning.
Galvez is the first officer to be gunned down in the department’s history.
The last time a Downey police officer was killed in the line of duty was nearly 35 years ago.
Officer Wayne Richard Presley, a nine-year police veteran, was struck and killed by a drunken driver on April 10, 1981. The 37-year-old officer and his partner had responded to the scene of a disabled truck and were getting back on their motorcycles when the speeding driver hit them. Presley, a U.S. Navy veteran, was thrown into the truck and died; his partner hit the curb and suffered major injuries.
Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.