With his killer still at large, a slain off-duty police officer was honored Tuesday by the Los Angeles City Council, which began its meeting with a moment of silence in his memory.
Officer Juan Jose Diaz, 24, was shot around 1 a.m. Saturday outside a taco stand near Avenue 26 and Artesian Street in Lincoln Heights and was pronounced dead at the scene. Diaz had been with the department for two years and was last assigned to the Professional Standards Bureau.
Beginning Tuesday’s city council meeting, Council President Herb Wesson led a moment of silence, saying “young officer Juan Jose Diaz, a man who committed to protect and to serve this city, lost his life while out with friends.”
Wesson also noted the killings of three people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday, and the recent death of longtime Democratic political activist Darren Parker.
“In the last 14 to 16 days, there’s been a lot of pain and we’ve lost a lot,” Wesson said. “The only thing we can count on in this world is this moment, this breath and the last word.”
The council also plans to adjourn its meeting in honor of Diaz.
“It is with tremendous loss that we thank you Officer Diaz, for your sacrifice and dedication to the city of Los Angeles,” Councilman Gil Cedillo said. “We’ll find justice and bring anyone responsible for the death of Officer Diaz to justice.”
Funeral services for Diaz are still pending, Cedillo said. Citing an internal LAPD notice, the Los Angeles Times reported that a visitation service will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Aug. 11 at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, with funeral services planned for 9 a.m. Aug. 12 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles.
Diaz was at the taco stand with his girlfriend and her two brothers early Saturday morning. Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, told reporters Diaz apparently confronted one or more graffiti vandals tagging a nearby wall.
“My understanding was there was some persons or person spray-painting a wall or something, committing an act of vandalism, and the officer — I don’t know what the conversation was — walked away,” Lally said. “There was no altercation that I know of, and then later, the officer was walking to his car and this person or persons went up and shot him.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that a group of young men approached Diaz and his companions and began making threats prior to the shooting, with one of them showing a gun in his waistband. The gunfire erupted as Diaz and the others were trying to get into their vehicle and leave the area.
No suspect descriptions have been released.
More than 100 people gathered for a vigil in Diaz’s memory Saturday night in front of the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters building downtown, where others continue to leave flowers, candles and other remembrances.
The vigil was held in front of a photo of a smiling Diaz with a sign that read: “Rest easy brother. We’ll hold the line from here.” Many attending the gathering wore Dodgers gear, reflecting Diaz’s love of the team.
Diaz’s sister, Anahi Diaz, told the crowd her brother was living his dream, saying he wanted to be a police officer since pre-school. Their mother and father “are broken,” she said.
“We need to stop this madness,” she told the crowd.
A second person was injured in the shooting, but that person was taken to a hospital and is expected to survive.
Members of Diaz’s Police Academy class have established a GoFundMe page to help his family with funeral and other expenses. The page is at www.gofundme.com/f/officer-juan-diaz.
“In honor of his memory and his surviving family, we ask that you support the family in this tragic event,” organizers of the page wrote. “Most will not understand the pain and grief, but many still have the ability to empathize. Back the blue and honor Officer Juan Diaz.”
Donations can also be made through the Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union at lapfcu.org/a-part-of-your-community/#overview.