In a deeply heartfelt moment, the grieving mother of a San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officer killed in the line of duty said the fallen hero was many things to many people but to her, he was her son.
“He was a follower of the Lord; a family man; an outstanding member of the San Diego Police Department and the community,” said Fe De Guzman of her son, SDPD Officer Jonathan “JD” De Guzman, at his memorial service Friday.
“But, most importantly to me, he was my son,” she wept. “He was my son.”
As Fe cried, she was consoled by SDPD Chaplain Chuck Price, whose head hung low as he rested his hand on back.
“Jonathan was my first child and the eldest of his generation in our family. He was the older brother to not only his siblings, but to all his cousins,” Fe continued. “He would light up a room when he walked in. He cared for each and every person. I have been so proud of him. He has been there for each and every one of us – even me – because he was my son.”
Fe said her family is extremely tight-knit. She and De Guzman’s father moved into her son’s family home and saw him every single day.
Fe said her fondest memory and the thing she’ll miss the most about her son was the moment right before he left for work every day. Each day, she said De Guzman would take a minute to be with her and his father and, in her words, “to pray, to share his love, his gratefulness for us and to pray that would come back home.”
“This simple act was also our last moment with him,” Fe reflected.
The mourning mother said that night when her son didn’t return home from his job as an SDPD Gang Unit officer reminds her of how precious life is and how important it is to cherish those moments with the people you love.
“Cherish them, for we do not know how much longer we have or [which day] will be our last,” Fe told the enormous group gathered for her son’s memorial service at Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego’s East County Friday.
Fe added that De Guzman “risked his life to make this world a better place” and asked others to take a little of her son’s spirit and, to quote Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“To my son, Jonathan, I love you very much and you will always be in my heart. Your dad and your siblings, your nieces and nephews, we’ll always love you forever. We love you so much,” Fe concluded.
In another moving tribute, De Guzman’s teenage son – Jonathan De Guzman II – also talked about how much his father meant to him.
“Now he’s gone and he won’t be there when I graduate. He won’t button my cufflinks or fix my tie,” said the teen, who’s currently a senior in high school.
“He won’t see me if I get married; he won’t see me graduate college. He won’t be at any more of my competitions,” Jonathan Jr. said, his voice trembling.
The teen said his father always told him he could do anything in life, and that he’d always be there to support his dreams.
“He always believed in me,” said Jonathan Jr.
The teenager described that horrific night last week when SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman and three other officers came to his family’s home to tell them De Guzman had been killed in the line of duty.
“I still vividly remember the day,” he cried. “And I regret so many things, like I wish I was able to spend more time with him…and wait for him at night to come home from work.”
Jonathan Jr. said he always knew his father was a hero and he has never been more proud to share his father’s name.
“His death motivates me to achieve my dreams and create a positive impact toward the world. I was never proud of my name until recently and I am so glad that my name is Jonathan,” he added.
After Jonathan Jr., De Guzman’s young daughter, Amira, also spoke, thanking everyone for attending her father’s memorial service.
De Guzman – a 16-year veteran of the force – was shot and killed on July 28, 2016 while he and his partner, SDPD Officer Wade Irwin, were on duty in San Diego’s Southcrest community.
Irwin stopped a man – suspect Jesse Michael Gomez, 52 – as Gomez walked in the area. SDPD Chief Zimmerman and prosecutors say Gomez opened fire at point-blank range on both officers – shooting Irwin in the throat and firing multiple times at De Guzman. Prosecutors say the attack on the officers happened so quickly, De Guzman never had a chance to raise his service weapon.
Irwin survived the shooting but remains hospitalized. Zimmerman said Irwin is expected to make a full recovery.
The shooting remains under investigation as officials try to piece together what led up to the gunfire as the nation still reels from recent killings of police officers in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Gomez, a construction worker with a criminal record dating back to 1983, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in the shooting of the officers as he was arraigned from a hospital room. Gomez was wounded when Irwin, fired back as the suspect fled, police said. Gomez was arrested after the shooting when police officers found him wounded in a ravine near the crime scene.
De Guzman’s shooting in San Diego has touched many citizens who felt compelled to salute the fallen officer Friday during a police motorcade procession through the city leading up to the memorial service.
Thousands of San Diegans lined the streets and freeway overpasses to pay their respects as De Guzman’s casket made its way to the church. Police and law enforcement officers from all over the country also visited San Diego Friday to attend De Guzman’s procession.
Fe said her family is grateful for the “immense support” her son’s friends, colleagues and complete strangers have shown her family during this difficult time
De Guzman survived a stabbing 13 years ago in the line of duty and was awarded a Purple Heart by the SDPD for his valor. Zimmerman and the officer’s colleagues have described how De Guzman eagerly came back to work after the 2003 stabbing, vowing to protect San Diego with everything he had.