The young daughter of a San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officer killed in the line of duty returned to school this week, proudly escorted to campus by a fleet of police officers.
On Monday, at least six SDPD vehicles drove sixth-grader Amira De Guzman to Heritage Elementary School. Lights flashing, the patrol cars caravanned into the round-about at the entrance of Amira’s school, dropping the girl off – her first day back at school since her father, SDPD Officer Jonathan “JD” De Guzman, 43, was killed.
The drop-off was captured on video and posted to the school’s “Pray4Us Heritage Hawks” page on Facebook, an online prayer group of parents and guardians from the school in San Diego’s South Bay.
With a big smile on her face, Amira can be seen getting out of an SDPD car and walking up to her school. “Amira, you’re late,” someone is heard joking on the video as the girl giggles.
The video shows police officers exiting their cars, smiling and proudly looking at Amira as she approaches the school. The girl turns around and gives hugs to several of the officers.
“We’ll see you soon, okay?” one officer tells the girl.
Another officer embraces her, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
Upon hearing news of De Guzman’s death two weeks ago, Heritage Elementary School sent a notice to the parents of students. The school called the fallen officer a “quality, involved parent” known by many Heritage Hawk families.
“In full uniform, kids would flock around him,” Francisco Escobedo, superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, told NBC 7. “He was an active parent, an amazing father. Chula Vista is mourning for him.”
Escobedo said De Guzman was a role model for kids and had been active in several clubs at his daughter’s school.
According to prosecutors and investigators, De Guzman and his partner, Officer Wade Irwin, 32, were gunned down on the job on July 28 in San Diego’s Southcrest community.
The officers were on Acacia Grove Way when Irwin stopped suspect Jesse Michael Gomez, 52, and asked if he lived in the area. Prosecutors said Gomez opened fire at point-blank range on both officers – shooting Irwin in the throat and hitting De Guzman with multiple bullets. The attack happened so quickly, prosecutors said De Guzman never had a chance to draw his service weapon.
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.
The shooting has shaken San Diego.
Gomez, a construction worker with a criminal record dating back to 1983, pleaded not guilty to the shooting on Aug. 2 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 bleeding in a ravine near the crime scene.
De Guzman was a 16-year veteran of the force, beloved by his colleagues and adored by his family.
The officer survived a stabbing on the job in 2003 and was awarded a Purple Heart by the SDPD for his valor. SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman has said that even after that incident, De Guzman returned to the force and his passion to protect and serve never wavered.
Both officers work with the SDPD’s Gang Unit, and are husbands and fathers. De Guzman leaves behind two children, Jonathan Jr. and Amira. Irwin has a 19-month-old toddler.
On Aug. 5, hundreds of law enforcement officers and private citizens lined the streets of San Diego for the funeral procession of the slain officer. Citizens waved flags and saluted the police motorcade as the procession made its way to Shadow Mountain Community Church for De Guzman’s memorial service.
The emotional service included many speakers, from San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman to De Guzman’s mother, Fe De Guzman, and the officer’s children, Jonathan Jr. and Amira.
The De Guzman family said they are grateful and overwhelmed by the love and support San Diego has shown for their family during this difficult time.
Since De Guzman’s death, San Diegans have been dropping off flowers, candles and heartfelt notes for the police department and De Guzman’s family at a plaque that rests in front of the SDPD headquarters in downtown San Diego.
The plaque is dedicated to the department’s fallen officers. Since 1913, the city has lost 33 officers in the line of duty.