DALLAS - The officer killed and the officer and Home Depot employee injured during a shooting Tuesday afternoon were all honored at a vigil Thursday night.
There was a sea of blue and a glow of soft light at the northeast patrol division where Officer Rogelio Santander was stationed before he was killed. Santander was shot while responding to a call about a suspected shoplifter at the Home Depot store on Forest Lane and the Central Expressway on Tuesday.
Fond memories of the three-year veteran were shared and prayers were offered up for him and his partner Officer Crystal Almedia, who was critically injured during the shooting.
“It’s hard to talk about them in the past tense,” said Sgt. Shannon Smith, Santander’s supervisor. “But you would not have met a better officer than Santander.”
Santander joined the department three years ago. He was a graduate of Skyline High School and Texas A&M Commerce. He was inspired to be an officer as early as elementary school.
One senior corporal said Santander’s most outstanding characteristic was he never stopped smiling. He even smiled when he was pepper sprayed, the senior corporal said.
Santander's partner and classmate in Dallas Police Class 343, Almeida, continues to recover. Police union representatives say even though she was shot in the head, she is blinking to communicate. Doctors say both she and loss prevention officer Scott Painter are expected to recover.
“What we're getting from them is that there is no reason they won't both live productive healthy lives in the future,” said Mike Mata, Dallas Police Association.
Santander’s family attended and sat in the front row of an audience that totaled more than 1,000 people – including Chief Renee Hall and Mayor Mike Rawlings.
“We need to change from being tragedy police lovers. We must be everyday police lovers,” Rawlings said.
Neighbors said there was no way they were going to miss a chance to honor the fallen officer.
“He was in our neighborhood when he got the call and responded to protect our neighborhood and protect the store and lost his life,” said Darrell Garrett. “The main thing is that I have a 27-year-old son and it's the living that I'm also concerned about and I can't imagine what his family must be going through.”
Neighborhood resident Melissa Vullo Bell said it was jarring to see an officer who patrolled her streets get killed.
“To know that it can happen just a couple of miles away is just scary and shouldn't be happening,” said Bell said.
Garland, Mesquite and Richardson officers patrolled northeast Dallas on Thursday night so Dallas officers from the northeast division could attend the vigil.