A Hero’s Farewell

Officers salute as the body of Estrada is taken into Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago
Officers watch as the body of Cook County sheriff’s officer Cuauhtemoc Estrada is taken into his funeral service at Holy Name Cathedral. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune).

December 28, 2013 || Mitch Smith and Kate Thayer, Chicago Tribune

Cook County said goodbye Saturday to officer Cuauhtemoc Estrada, the sheriff’s investigator and Marine Corps veteran who was shot and killed last weekend while protecting his daughter and her boyfriend from armed robbers.

In Holy Name Cathedral, Estrada was celebrated as a dedicated officer who cared deeply about his family and his community. He died serving both, and law enforcement officials from every corner of Cook County and beyond filled the pews at the Near North Side church to pay their respects.

“He was just a good, strong person with a lot of love for our family,” said Felipe Gallegos, a nephew who gave the eulogy. “He’d give out the best helping hand he could give to you.”

Suburban, county, state, Chicago and federal law enforcement officers lined the street outside the Roman Catholic cathedral before the service. The block in front of the church remained quiet until a band of bagpipes and drums signaled the hearse’s arrival.

The officers and deputies, many wearing dress uniforms with black mourning bands across their stars, saluted Estrada’s casket, which entered the church draped in an American flag. Many passing pedestrians stopped to watch and photograph the procession, which also included a police color guard. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez were among those in attendance.

After the service, Ford Crown Victorias, Ford Explorers and Chevrolet Tahoes from dozens of jurisdictions sped off toward the burial site at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in west suburban Hillside with their blue and red lights flashing.

Screenshot 2013-12-28 at 4.40.04 PM
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, center, watches as the body of Cook County sheriff’s officer Cuauhtemoc Estrada is taken into his funeral service at Holy Name Cathedral. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune).

Estrada, 50, died Dec. 20 after two men in ski masks and hoodies attempted to rob Estrada’s daughter and her boyfriend outside a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in west suburban Bellwood, according to prosecutors. The couple were carrying food inside from a car when they were attacked.

Estrada, who was hosting a holiday party at the building and was off duty, went outside and attempted to break up the robbery, police and prosecutors said. When he reached for his gun, he was shot by one of the men. The officer, a nearly 20-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, was later pronounced dead at Loyola University Medical Center.

Police tracked footprints from the crime scene to a nearby house, where they arrested two men. Brandon Jackson and Gage Thornton, both 22, were ordered held without bail on Monday. They face charges of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery.

The slaying was a tragic contradiction of the holiday spirit Estrada was celebrating that night, said Monsignor Dan Mayall, who gave the homily.

“What happened on the 20th of December was sudden, was horrible,” said Mayall, Holy Name’s pastor.

But the priest said the hundreds who gathered at the cathedral were a testament to the promise that, despite the heartbreak, there was hope.

“On a day like this, a unique day, when you commend someone with whom you worked, served — someone you loved, respected — you want to say and do all the right things,” Mayall said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing this morning. The light always wins. The light always wins.” VFP

A memorial fund has been established for Estrada’s family and loved ones. Click here to support them in their time of bereavement.

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