Downey Police Officer Ricardo Galvez, who was fatally gunned down during what officials described as a botched robbery, was mourned in the city he patrolled and beyond.
At a memorial Thursday night, Galvez’s sister was overcome with emotion by her brother’s death.
“Why Ricky? Why Ricky?” she cried. “Nobody knows the pain but us.”
Close friends and relatives, seen in the glow of candles and the lights of television cameras, shared in the tears.
Helium balloons with stars and stripes marked the parking spot next to the Downey Police Department’s headquarters where 29-year-old Galvez was fatally shot on Wednesday night.
Galvez, 29, of Whittier, joined the police department as an officer in 2010 and was affectionately known by members of the community as “Ricky.”
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.
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. Marine Corps 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 to fight in Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the police department’s website.
Following his first tour, which ended in 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.”
“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.
“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.
Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.