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Big-City Tragedy Hits ‘Small-Town’ Police Force : Crime: No arrests have been made in the slaying of a Maywood officer. Residents, colleagues recall his concern for the community.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With just 34 officers--16 of them assigned to patrol duties--the Maywood Police Department has always operated as a small-town police force.

But when Officer John A. Hoglund became the first Maywood police officer killed in the town’s 68-year history, it was a reminder to the tightknit department that urban ills are close at hand.

“I’ve always told people: ‘If you ever want to see the small-town cop working in the metropolitan L.A. area, come and ride with our guys,’ ” Chief Ted Heidke said Saturday. “But we’re a small town with big-town problems.”

Hoglund, 46, a 16-year veteran of the force, was shot to death Friday as he came upon armed robbers fleeing George’s Market with thousands of dollars. Maywood authorities said Hoglund volunteered to go to the scene after the market owners activated a silent alarm. They had been held at gunpoint for nearly 20 minutes while the robbers methodically searched the store for money.

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Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Maywood force were attempting Saturday to identify the suspects based on descriptions provided by numerous witnesses.

A sheriff’s spokesman declined to comment on the investigation. Heidke said of the suspects: “We know they are not from Maywood.”

Grieving city officials and citizens described Hoglund as a breed of street cop that seems to be fast disappearing. They said he made it a point to know people in the community--including the owners of the store where he was killed--and paid attention to small problems that others might have deemed insignificant.

Ron Lindsey, Maywood’s assistant chief administrative officer, recalled that Hoglund was always concerned that handicapped parking spaces were not clearly identified. Eventually, the officer presented the city with a list of businesses that did not have clearly marked spaces so action could be taken, Lindsey said.

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“That seems like a trivial thing,” Lindsey said, “but it shows you about his focus.”

Maywood resident Luis Saldana, 31, recalled Hoglund as a tough cop who gave him a ticket for driving without a license when he was 15, and then kept close watch on him. By the time Saldana was 18, Hoglund had given him more than a dozen traffic tickets, and also had ticketed the young man’s mother for allowing him to drive without a license.

But Saldana said he and the officer gradually became friends.

“He would ask me questions like, ‘Are you staying out of trouble?’ He wanted me to start taking the right path,” he said.

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Two months ago, Saldana got a job at the county library next door to the Maywood police station. When Hoglund saw Saldana in the parking lot, “he was really surprised. He complimented me on getting the job here,” Saldana said. “I was just getting to know him better and better.”

Heidke described Hoglund as an extremely dedicated officer. Three years ago, after he was injured in a car accident during a high-speed chase, Hoglund’s daughter urged him to give up working patrol, but Hoglund refused, Heidke said.

Heidke said that Maywood’s officers are sad and angry about Hoglund’s death. They are also tense, he said. “All the guys realize it could happen to any one of them,” he said. But, “business goes on.”

However, Tom Park, who was held at gunpoint during the robbery and whose parents own the market, said they planned to close their store early Saturday and remain closed today in honor of the officer, who frequently stopped by to check on them.

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“There’s only certain people who will die for you,” he said, his eyes watering. “Your family, your friends, and a police officer.”


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