(NEWMAN, Calif.) — Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the nation are expected to descend on a small California farming town this week to honor a police corporal described as his family’s “role model,” who was gunned down in the line of duty by an alleged gang member a day after Christmas.
Cpl. Ronil Singh’s colleagues at the Newman Police Department in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley said plans to honor their fallen colleague will include two honor guard public viewings a day ahead of his funeral on Saturday.
“I’m not going to say Ronil was my older brother, he is,” Reggie Singh, holding his brother’s 5-month-old son, told a crowd of several hundred who attended a candlelight vigil in Newman. “And, he is still alive within us.”
A police honor guard will stand sentry at Singh’s casket for a viewing set for Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m at the Newman Community Meeting Room, followed by a second viewing and honor guard salute at a funeral home in nearby Modesto.
On Saturday, law enforcement officers from throughout California and across the nation are expected to attend Singh’s funeral at 10 a.m. PST at the CrossPoint Community Church in Modesto.
Ugesh Yogi Singh posted a tribute to his nephew on Facebook, calling Ronil Singh “my family’s Action Hero.” He said Singh was “a very adventurous and beautiful soul, taken away too soon.”
Singh’s alleged killer, Gustavo Perez Arriaga, was arrested on Friday, following a massive statewide manhunt involving hundreds of police officers and multiple law enforcement agencies. He was taken back to Stanislaus County in the slain officer’s handcuffs to face justice.
Arriaga, 32, described by officials as a member of the Sureños street gang and an undocumented immigrant, was allegedly attempting to flee to his native Mexico when he was captured at a house near Bakersfield, some 200 miles from where Singh was shot, officials said. Seven people, including Arriaga’s two brothers and his girlfriend, were also arrested on suspicion of either misleading authorities about Arriaga’s whereabouts or aiding him in evading authorities, police officials said.
Ronil Singh, one of just 12 officers on the Newman police force, was killed about 1 a.m. Wednesday after he pulled Arriaga over on suspicion of driving under the influence. Arriaga allegedly opened fire on Singh without warning as the officer approached his pickup truck, said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson.
Singh managed to return fire despite being mortally wounded, Christianson said. He later died at a hospital.
Christianson railed against the state’s newly enacted SB 54 law, which is credited with making California a so-called “sanctuary state.” The law, passed in October, is seen as a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, limits how much California law enforcement can cooperate with federal authorities like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The sheriff suggested that sanctuary laws prohibited his department from sharing Arriaga’s gang ties, “other active warrants” and past DUI arrests with federal immigration authorities.
“This is a criminal illegal alien with prior criminal activity that should have been reported to ICE. We were prohibited, law enforcement was prohibited, because of sanctuary laws, and that led to the encounter with Officer Singh,” said Christianson, who has worked with Trump directly on immigration issues and appeared at an anti-sanctuary city roundtable in May.
While the manhunt was going on for Arriaga, Trump tweeted about the suspect’s undocumented immigration status, writing that it was “time to get tough on Border Security. Build the Wall!”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the incoming chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday that sanctuary laws have actually helped police in New York City “promote public safety” by encouraging cooperation between the police officers and residents, particularly in predominantly immigrant neighborhoods.
“I’m not going to take issue with the sheriff’s assessment of the situation being unfamiliar with California laws,” Jeffries said. “Clearly, it’s a human tragedy. Clearly, we have to do better in terms of preventing these type of occurrences from taking place and to keep our law enforcement safe, to keep our communities safe. That’s what Democrats intend to do and will continue to do on a bipartisan fashion.”
John Cohen, a former California police officer and undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, said any suggestion that California’s sanctuary laws prohibit local police from sharing information with ICE about violent criminals is “misleading.”
“The law, in fact, does allow that and precisely enables local law enforcement officials to work with ICE when targeting criminals and gang members in particular,” said Cohen, an ABC News contributor. “What it doesn’t allow is for local law enforcement to respond to ICE civil detainers and to engage in activities that are exclusively focused on enforcement of immigration laws against noncriminal aliens.”
But friends and family of Singh put politics aside to grieve. Officials said Singh was a native of Fiji, who legally immigrated to the United States and achieved his dream of being a police officer.
Singh’s widow, Anamika, held her baby son and stood at a makeshift memorial honoring her husband during a candlelight vigil on Friday night just hours after Arriaga’s arrest.
“He was just a role model,” another one of Singh’s uncles, Aklesh Singh, told the tearful crowd.
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