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‘He was twice the man that I was’: Mourners honor slain Pomona Police Officer Greggory Casillas

Arturo Fematt Jr. treasured the weekends he spent with his brother-in-law, Pomona Police Officer Greggory Casillas.

Casillas loved baseball, and when Game 6 of the World Series fell on Halloween last year, the two spent the night watching the Dodgers play while their wives took their children trick or treating.

He recalled looking at Casillas that night as he sat on the couch and fed his newborn son from a bottle.

“’You are truly happy, huh?’” Fematt remembered asking. “He smiled with a big smile I will never forget. He told me, ‘All my dreams are coming true.’”

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It’s times such as those that he will miss the most, Fematt said as he fought back tears Thursday morning at Casillas’ funeral at Purpose Church in Pomona.

Casillas, 30, was shot and killed when a suspect fired on him through a door March 9. He had followed a reckless driver into a Pomona apartment complex, where the man was barricaded in one of the units.

As Casillas approached, he was struck by bullets fired from behind a door. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. A second officer who was shot while trying to save Casillas is recovering from his wounds.

The suspect, Isaias De Jesus Valencia, was charged with one count of murder and seven counts of attempted murder, among others. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

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Inside the church Thursday morning, Fematt told the mourners who filled the pews how much he had hoped “this moment would never happen.”

One day, Fematt said, he came home to find that Casillas had given his son a sticker in the shape of a police badge. The boy excitedly ran up to Fematt and said, “I’m a superhero like Tio Gregg!”

He didn’t take the sticker off for two days.

Hundreds attended Casillas’ service, including California Gov. Jerry Brown, and uniformed law enforcement officers representing multiple agencies. Family, friends and colleagues described the rookie as a loving husband and father, a joker and a proud officer.

“Yeah, it does hurt,” his father, Gregory Casillas, said as he stood at the lectern. “I’m mad as hell.”

His son was a determined man, he said, one who always accomplished what he set his mind to.

“He was twice the man that I was,” the elder Casillas said. He spoke slowly, pausing at times to regain his composure.

To Pomona Police Chief Michael Olivieri, Casillas was a “guardian” who achieved his dream of joining the Police Department. Casillas took on various positions — he was a records specialist and jailer before becoming a police recruit — to better prepare himself to achieve his goal of becoming an officer.

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He was sworn in as a police officer in September, and was nearly finished with his field training when he was killed.

Reading from Casillas’ application essay, Olivieri let the rookie officer explain his dream in his own words. Growing up in Lincoln Heights, Casillas wrote, he witnessed how hard it was for law enforcement to stop crime.

In the essay, he recalled talking with officers as he played in the street. They would take time out of their day and give kids D.A.R.E. Dodgers baseball cards.

“They cared for us,” Casillas wrote.

From then, he knew he wanted to be a police officer and make a difference. He chose Pomona because he grew up in a similar environment — his parents moved the family to El Sereno when he was a teenager.

“Officer Casillas, you certainly made a difference,” Olivieri said as he finished reading Casillas’ words.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Christian Guevara, who attended the academy with Casillas, remembered his friend for his sense of humor.

Guevara said the two would argue for days over silly disagreements, such as which type of soup was better — menudo or pozole. They laughed to the point of tears, he said.

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The pair made a pact when they were in the academy that they would help each other “in some way” in the future, he said.

“I know he will be with me in the street. He will be with me in a time of need,” Guevara said. “He will be my guardian angel for the rest of my career.”

Toward the end of the funeral service, a video tribute showed photographs of Casillas over the years. Pictures of him on his birthday flashed by, followed by others in which he was dressed in his basketball and football uniforms or was hugging his wife and sons.

“Quiereme” (“Love Me”) by Los Bukis softly played in the background as one of the final images filled the screen: Casillas held his son’s hand as they walked down a railroad together, their backs to the camera.


UPDATES:

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with details from the funeral service.

This article was originally published at 7:50 a.m.


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