Friday, August 25, 2017

San Bernardino officer’s ‘inspirational’ recovery after shooting applauded at retirement ceremony



San Bernardino Police Officer Gabe Garcia, center, receives a standing ovation during his retirement ceremony on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at the San Bernardino Police Station. (Micah Escamilla, The Sun/SCNG)  

By Brian Rokos | brokos@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise 

PUBLISHED: August 24, 2017 at 2:59 pm | UPDATED: August 24, 2017 at 7:43 pm 
       
San Bernardino Police Officer Gabe Garcia is honored during a retirement ceremony on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at the San Bernardino Police Station in San Bernardino, Ca. Garcia, who was shot in the head on August 22, 2014, has made great strides in his recovery but still suffers some paralysis on his right side. He worked for the San Bernardino Police Department for 9 years. (Micah Escamilla, The Sun/SCNG) 

San Bernardino police Officer Gabe Garcia, making a steady recovery from being shot in the head in 2014, retired Thursday, Aug. 24, in an upbeat ceremony in front of about 200 family members, co-workers and former colleagues who came to the San Bernardino Police Department to celebrate him. 

A video produced by Garcia’s father, retired San Bernardino police Capt. Ron Garcia, showed images of the officer from the time he entered the police academy, to when he lay in a hospital bed in a coma after the shooting, to his ongoing rehabilitation, to the present, when he is walking and speaking. 

The song that accompanied the images, “What Faith Can Do,” included the lyrics: “Even when the sky is falling / I’ve seen miracles just happen / Silent prayers get answered / Broken hearts become brand new / That’s what faith can do.” 

Seeing the video of Garcia barely responding to his parents made it all the more remarkable that Garcia, 34, could be present to receive from Police Chief Jarrod Burguan a shadowbox full of mementos from his nine-year career and a proclamation from the City Council. 

“I can tell you, watching Gabe through this process has been incredibly inspirational,” Burguan said. 

“Three years ago was a pretty dark time for the organization. This has been an emotional journey. Gabe, you know you are always part of the family. You defined the strength of this organization and the tenacity of the city,” the chief said. 

Former City Councilman Rikkie Van Johnson recalled the day three years ago when he rode with Garcia, a field-training officer, on a shift. 

“I could see our department was truly blessed that he was instructing people coming into our department,” Johnson said. 

Garcia then spoke briefly. 

“I’m happy to be here, to be alive to speak to you,” he said.
San Bernardino Police Officer Gabriel Garcia smiles during pool therapy on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare in Pomona, Ca. (Micah Escamilla/The Sun) 

In the early-morning hours of Aug. 22, 2014, Garcia, a field training officer, was on patrol with probationary officer Marcus Pesquera. They came upon a group of people gathered around a car. Both officers stepped from their patrol car to see what the group was doing and one of the men opened fire, striking Garcia in the head. 

Pesquera engaged the shooter in a gunbattle, killing him. 

Pesquera was present Thursday to honor Garcia but tried to stay out of the limelight. 

“I’m happy for him,” Pesquera said simply after the ceremony. 

Also present was Cathedral City Deputy Police Chief Travis Walker, who was watch commander for the San Bernardino police the night Garcia was shot and responded to the scene. 

“He’s truly brought the community together,” Walker said afterward. “Truly inspirational for all of us.” 

Other law enforcement agencies represented included the Redlands, Riverside and San Bernardino City Unified School District police departments; San Bernardino County Probation; and California Highway Patrol. Cal Poly Pomona Police Chief Dario Robinson, a former San Bernardino police lieutenant, attended, as did San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos. 

“This is what a true family is,” Ramos said, addressing the crowd. 

Click here to read the full story and view more photos from the event.

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