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Hundreds gather to honor LAPD officer fatally shot in South L.A.

Los Angeles, CA - February 02: Funeral services for LAPD Officer Fernando Arroyos, who was shot and killed on Jan. 10., takes place at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Funeral services for LAPD Officer Fernando Arroyos were held at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills on Wednesday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

They lifted the flag-draped casket from a hearse and escorted it down a path lined with saluting, uniformed officers, as the haunting and mournful wail of bagpipes echoed across the Hollywood Hills.

A procession of black-and-white patrol cars, officers on motorcycles and others on horseback lined the roadways leading to the Hall of Liberty Mosaic Deck at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills. A riderless horse symbolized the loss of a fallen officer, his empty boots facing backward in the stirrups.

Hundreds gathered Wednesday morning to honor Fernando Arroyos, a Los Angeles police officer fatally shot during an armed robbery last month when he was off duty.

"With sadness and humility we acknowledge that Fernando has answered his final call," Msgr. Frank Hicks said at the 27-year-old’s funeral service, which was held in English and Spanish. "He has ended his watch."

"Vaya con Dios, mi amigo," Hicks said. Go with God, my friend.

Arroyos, who returned to his hometown to become an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, had been on the force for just three years before his death. He had worked a series of days in patrol and had a day off on Jan. 10, when he and his girlfriend went to look at a house that he was thinking of buying.

Three men pulled up in a truck and exchanged words — and then gunfire — with the young officer. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Arroyos yelled for his girlfriend to run and was defending her when he fell. He said Arroyos died a hero.

Luis De La Rosa Rios, Jesse Contreras, Ernesto Cisneros and Haylee Grisham have been charged in federal court with Arroyos’ killing. The three men are members of Florencia-13, according to the FBI. Grisham, the girlfriend of Rios, is described as a gang associate.

The complaint alleges the group robbed and killed Arroyos “to increase and maintain position” within the gang. Investigators said they had spotted Arroyos wearing chains around his neck, and decided to take them from him.

"A young officer who held such promise for this city, who was just beginning his career as a police officer ... was suddenly, violently and senselessly taken from us in a murderous act of violence over a few silver chains,” said Moore, who wore a solid black band around his badge. "May the full weight of our criminal justice system be brought to bear on these individuals."

The service was held in front of the “Birth of Liberty” mosaic, which bears the words: “God gave us liberty. People who forsake God lose their liberty.” Arroyos’ family sat nearby, some wearing white roses pinned to their jackets.

Arroyos’ hat, white gloves and a single rose rested on a plinth. As a song requested by Arroyos’ family played — Gabby Barrett’s “The Good Ones" — the officer’s mother took off her glasses and covered her face as she wept, her chest heaving with labored sobs.

Each speaker detailed a young life filled with promise. Arroyos would have turned 28 in the coming week.

Arroyos grew up in a household with his mother, grandmother and stepfather in South Los Angeles. Ray Bernardo, a family friend, said that as a boy, Arroyos would play cops and robbers with other children.

"Of course, he always wanted to play the role of a cop," Bernardo said.

Arroyos attended 42nd Street Elementary School and Audubon Middle School, graduated from Crenshaw High in 2012 and went off to UC Berkeley, where he earned a degree in legal studies. He then returned home to Los Angeles, to pursue his dream of joining the LAPD.

Pallbearers carry the casket of LAPD Officer Fernando Arroyos at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills.
Pallbearers carry the casket of LAPD Officer Fernando Arroyos at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

When Bernardo asked whether Arroyos had applied for other departments, he said no. His heart was set on the LAPD.

His dream came true in December 2018, when he reported to the LAPD academy for recruit training. He excelled even then, specifically in running, and was selected as one of the class road guards.

Eventually, he landed at the Olympic Division, not far from where he'd grown up. In addition to his daily duties of protecting the community, he called his mother and grandmother every day to ensure they’d eaten, taken their medicine and were well-rested.

Moore described an officer who would go the extra mile to return a stolen bike to a victim and extend his watch so others could go home. At work, "he was well-respected and loved by many."

Recently, at the Olympic station, Moore spotted a tribute T-shirt to Arroyos with a reference to Bible verse Isaiah 6:8:

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?'

And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"

"Officer Arroyos could have been so many other things in his life, but he chose to be a cop on the beat in the LAPD. To step forward into the breach," Moore said. "Officer Fernando showed in his words and his deeds, 'Here I am, send me.'"

Janet Covarrubias walks past LAPD officers with her 2-year-old son, Alexander Covarrubias.
Janet Covarrubias walks past LAPD officers with her 2-year-old son, Alexander Covarrubias. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Officers from across Southern California gathered to pay their respects.

Among the attendees were four L.A. County sheriff's deputies who had responded to the shooting call in Florence-Firestone and found Arroyos gravely injured. The deputies took the wounded officer in their patrol car to St. Francis Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

“Each showed their devotion to their brother law enforcement officer, and I am grateful,” Moore said.

When Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke, he lamented the loss of so many police officers. He invoked the memory of slain LAPD Officer Juan Diaz, "another hero who stepped up in his own community to just simply do what's right."

Garcetti called Arroyos’ mother, Karina Membreno, "exceptional" and said she "raised a boy who became a hero to this city, not because he sought fame or fortune, but because he sought to serve the community that you gave him."

He told Arroyos’ girlfriend, Angela Mendoza, that "this whole city holds you."

LAPD Lt. Rex Ingram, who supervised Arroyos and spoke with him often at the Olympic Division, called the young man a "servant of God, a peacekeeper and a man who always found the good in people."

Ingram recalled his first encounter with Arroyos, when he submitted a crime report that was "anything but typical." He used proper grammar and pronouns, Ingram said, to chuckles from the crowd of officers.

"It was one of the best-written crime reports I'd ever read," he said.

He added that Arroyos represented "the best of the diverse melting pot we call home in Los Angeles."

"You stood tall, defending life and liberty so that everyone else can live their American dream," Ingram said. "You did this regardless of ever knowing them, meeting them or having an affection toward them."

Ingram said that Arroyos had shared worries over the "anti-police climate, the refusal to hold criminals accountable and a woke narrative that only seemed to make things worse, not better."

Despite that, Ingram called Arroyos a unifying force.

"As I look out in the crowd today, I see many different badges," Ingram said. "Fernando, you brought us here together as one policing community that are just the most recognizable symbol of policing in America."

When Ingram finished speaking, a recording for Arroyos played out over the LAPD radio to all units:

"Officer Fernando Uriel Arroyos ... end of watch."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.