Crowds gathered Tuesday morning at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall to mourn the loss of Dallas Police Officer Rogelio Santander, slain a week ago by a gunman being detained at a Home Depot in northeast Dallas.
For at least seven miles along 1-30 eastbound, billboards were lit with photos in Santander's memory. Many local residents lined the service road leading up to the church in Rockwall waving American flags or draping them over their shoulders.
Santander was 27 and had served in the northeast division of the Dallas Police Department for three years. Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said at a vigil Thursday that he had wanted to be a police officer since sixth grade at Edward Tiche Elementary School in Dallas.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
Santander's body was moved from Cathedral Guadalupe to Lake Pointe Church early Tuesday after remaining at the cathedral overnight under an Honor Guard. A private Mass was conducted at the cathedral Monday afternoon.
Bishop Edward Burns of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas presided at both the Mass and funeral service.
A crowd estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 turned out for the funeral, including police officers from Chicago, Suffolk, New York City, Aurora, Colo., representing the Brotherhood of the Fallen organization, and officers from across Texas.
Bishop Burns said in his homily, "It's in moments like this we try to make some sense of life and our relationship with God."
He said he'd had a "wonderful visit with the Santander family" that moved "from laughter to tears to laughter to mourning."
"I witnessed in them a gift of faith," he said. "Rogelio Sr. said, 'Our faith will get us through this. Our faith will keep us strong.'"
He said the elder Santander was very proud of his son, who he saw become "a man of character, a man of discipline." He cherished the moments he worked side-by-side in construction with his son, Burns said, and saw how hard he worked.
Burns said his mother told him that Rogelio never missed her birthday and was ever-mindful of her, and he noted that Rogelio's brother was his best friend.
He concluded with a plea for the family to keep hope in this dark time. "For sin, evil, suffering and death will not have the last word," he said. "Jesus Christ ... will bring salvation to all."
Oscar Romero, Santander's soccer coach in junior high, said in his remembrance that "Mr. Junior," as he called him, told him he was going to make it "no matter the rough neighborhood he came from. And he made it — he became a police officer," he said struggling to keep his voice from cracking. "And that's why we loved him — because he did it."
Santander's girlfriend, Jennifer Rivera, recalled their first meeting in 2016 at the Subway where she worked and how she noticed his bright smile when she gave him his receipt slip to sign.
"You gave it to me in a Subway napkin," she said, addressing him. "I keep it to this day."
The service ended with a long and steady stream of police officers walking past Santander's casket and saluting, along with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas city council members.
After the ceremony, Santander was escorted in a procession to the Restland Memorial Park Garden of Honor for burial. There, hundreds of police officers stood in single file lines along the path that the pallbearers used to carry his casket to it's final resting place.
Nearly 2,000 people attended the candlelight vigil Thursday night at the Northeast Division police station.
Armando Juarez, 29 of Dallas is accused of shooting both Santander and Dallas police Officer Crystal Almeida as well as Home Depot loss-prevention officer Scott Painter on April 24. Santander died the next day.
Santander and Almeida had responded to a call for backup when they and Painter were gunned down while attempting to handcuff Juarez.
Almeida and Painter remain in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where they underwent surgery and are recovering from their injuries.