More than 2,500 law enforcement officers from Los Angeles and surrounding communities turned out Monday to honor slain Manhattan Beach Police Officer Martin L. Ganz, the first officer to be gunned down in the quiet seaside community.
The uniformed officers, Gov. Pete Wilson and Manhattan Beach Police Chief Ted Mertens joined Ganz's family and hundreds of grieving friends to remember Ganz as a devoted police officer who loved to work with children.
"I believe the true meaning of Martin's commitment can be found in the faces of children throughout this community and others whose lives he touched," Mertens said of Ganz, who became a police officer in Manhattan Beach in 1989. "Martin was truly a man of principles, values and ideals who loved his job."
Wilson pledged that law enforcement and government officials will "not rest until the thug that took his life is brought to justice."
"Martin has left a legacy to us," Wilson said. "He has entrusted us with a dream of a safe and decent California. It is our responsibility to honor his memory and to accept that trust and complete the job for him."
Ganz, 29, died the night of Dec. 27 after he was gunned down by a motorist he had pulled over outside the Manhattan Village shopping mall. No arrests have been made, and police have yet to come up with a motive for the shooting. The shooting was witnessed by Ganz's 13-year-old nephew, who had accompanied the officer on routine patrol.
Police have released a sketch of a suspect, described as an Asian man in his late 20s or early 30s with a medium build. Investigators are continuing to search for the drivers of two vehicles filmed by a nearby bank camera who may have witnessed the incident.
In a tearful eulogy to her brother, Janet Chase recalled how Ganz always had dreamed of becoming a police officer. She said the day he graduated from the police academy and the day he got a job with the Manhattan Beach Police Department were "two of the best days of his life."
"The last time I saw him was at our family Christmas party," Chase said. "He had to leave the party early because he had to go to work. He was so happy. Before he left, he gave me a big bear hug and said, 'Goodby, Janet. I love you.' "
After the 90-minute service, broadcast on speakers and television sets to an overflow crowd gathered in the parking lot and in an adjacent auditorium of American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach, hundreds of law enforcement officers in squad cars and on motorcycles led the mile-long funeral procession to Inglewood Memorial Park.
For police officers from Los Angeles to San Diego, Ganz's death seemed to underscore the increasingly violent nature of the job.
"It's a sign of the times," said Officer Steve Gentry of the Inglewood Police Department. "You've got kids growing up in a world where people just don't flat out care anymore. There's no one to teach them respect for police officers. There's no respect for anything."
Officer Tom Dorsey of the Torrance Police Department added: "More people have guns now and are more willing to use them."
Ganz was the third officer killed in Southern California in the last five weeks. Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Darryn Leroy Robins was fatally shot by a fellow officer in an informal police training session on Christmas Day. Oxnard Police Detective James E. O'Brien was shot to death Dec. 2 while trying to apprehend a man who had shot up an Oxnard unemployment office, killing three and wounding four.
Just a few feet from Ganz's cemetery plot lay another slain policeman, Compton Officer Kevin Burrell, who was shot to death along with his partner, James McDonald, last March after they had stopped two suspects in a pickup truck.
Among those who paid tribute to Ganz on Monday were several Manhattan Beach elementary school students enrolled in anti-drug abuse classes taught by the officer.
"He was one of the nicest people I've ever known," said 12-year-old Kelly Sullivan. "He loved everyone."