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Family, police honor fallen hero, Patricio Zamarripa, killed in Dallas sniper attack

The sounds of Tejano tunes mixed by Dallas Police Detective Arturo Martinez played in the standing-room only crowd as trays of hot wings and pitchers of beer swirled above a sea of off-duty officers at Hooters in downtown Dallas Thursday night.

The event was a fundraiser sponsored by the National Latino Law Enforcement Organization’s Dallas chapter. But for Martinez it was the unofficial memorial for his friend, Patricio “Patrick” Zamarripa.

On Thursday, July 7, Zamarripa and four other police officers – Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Officer Michael Krol and Sgt. Michael Smith of the Dallas Police Department as well as DART transit Officer Brent Thompson – were killed in the line of duty in downtown Dallas by a sniper who opened fire at a protest, trying to kill cops.

“Everything I’m doing – it’s all for Pat,” Martinez, who spins records professionally under the name DJ Turo, told Fox News Latino. “Of course I’m doing it for all the other guys too – but all this work, all the sleep that I’ve lost, it’s all been for Pat.”

Martinez played David Lee Garza y Los Musicales’ “Alma Negra” featuring Emilio Navaira for the crowd. It was one of Zamarripa’s favorite songs, Martinez said, who described his friend’s spirit in one word: unconditional.

“You didn’t have to give him anything for him to give you everything, and he proved that on July 7,” said Martinez. The detective will serve as a pall-bearer at his friend’s funeral on Saturday in Fort Worth.

“It’s going to be horrible,” said Martinez. “That’s the only word to use.” But he is optimistic about the future and knows his friend’s legacy will grow.

“Because of Thursday [July 7], every single person here is going to be a better family member and a better friend,” Martinez said, pointing at the crowd. “Because of Thursday.”

A GoFundMe page in Zamarripa’s honor has raised more than $155,000 to help the family with funeral expenses but in Saginaw, a suburb of Fort Worth about an hour away from downtown Dallas, Zamarripa’s family continues to mourn the son they lost.

His stepmother, María, was too exhausted to speak on Thursday.

“I’m just so tired,” she said and listed the things she hadn’t had time to do. Her hair, a dress for the funeral, washing the car. “The plants,” she said and grabbed a watering can. Blue and yellow ribbons are wrapped around a tree in the front yard.

Earlier this week, Patricio’s father, Enrique “Rick” Zamarripa, looked out of his window seat while on an airplane ride to New York. He was heading to a town hall meeting with CNN. He took a quick picture of the clouds below.

“We are as close to heaven as we can get to my son,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

His son, Patricio, enlisted in the Navy after high school and served three tours in Iraq before joining the Dallas Police Department in 2010. He would have been 33 next month. His neighbor Charlotte Watson said there aren’t enough words to help a family that’s in this kind of pain.

“How do you absorb something like that?” said Watson, who has been Rick’s neighbor for more than 30 years.

Rick told his neighbors the sad news about his son the morning after it happened while standing on the sidewalk. Zamarripa had walked home from a nearby mechanic after his truck battery died.

He had spent Thursday night at Parkland Hospital in Dallas where his son’s body had been taken, and where he and his family received official notification that Patricio was dead.

Watson said Rick was alone then, except for the constant phone calls, and, soon after, the constant swarm of media on the otherwise quiet street.

“Their life is pretty chaotic in a very unfortunate way,” Watson said.

At Wilkerson-Greines Athletic Center in Fort Worth, where the rosary and funeral service will take place Friday and Saturday, crime prevention specialist Kala Sloan and a partner manned a lookout tower on the scorching parking lot Thursday afternoon.

Sloan, who has been with the Fort Worth Police Department for more than 20 years, said there are times – even in an empty parking lot that the deaths are “really brought home to you.”

Meanwhile the growing memorial in front of the Dallas Police Department headquarters near downtown remained a hive of activity as honor guards from departments across the country stopped to pay their respects to the fallen officers.

Minneapolis police officer Ken Tidgwell and a contingent of five officers from his department stood in front of headquarters late Thursday afternoon offering condolences, all too aware of the situation back home in Minneapolis, where protests following the shooting of Philando Castile continue.

Castile’s death and the recent shooting death of another black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the prompted the July 7 march in Dallas that took such a tragic turn.

“It heightens our awareness out on the street,” said Tidgwell who is an 8-year veteran. “It splits your concentration.”

Dallas resident Ursula Fraga thought the memorial would be too much for her sons to take in, but she still stopped by on her way to a birthday party with both her boys.

“I want them to be in touch with reality,” said Fraga, pausing in mid-sentence to choke back tears. Her eldest son Michael, 10, put his arms around his mother. “For them to know there are bad people, but for them to come to see how the community comes together, too.”

Fraga was concerned that her boys would be overwhelmed, but she wasn’t prepared for her own emotional response to the public’s outpouring of grief —on paper, in balloons, candles, handwritten notes and, in the shade, comfort dogs, that surrounded the makeshift memorial.

“Don’t feel sad,” Fraga’s younger son, 7-year-old Matthew, told his mom.

A few hours later, as the crowd at Hooters moved to DJ Turo’s beats and waited for Zamarripa’s family to arrive, there wasn’t a feeling of sadness but a moment — even for a few hours — of celebration and camaraderie in a city that continues to mourn.

When Kristy Zamarripa finally arrived and stood at the top of the staircase, her young daughter Lyncoln in her arms and son Dylan by her side, the crowd of officers cheered.

Afterward, 2-year-old Lyncoln sat on a bench with her grandmother, Christine Villaseñor, and looked out at officers on the street in front of the restaurant. She pointed at the dark male figures bathed in flashing lights and looked for her father. He wasn’t there.

Joanna Cattanach is a freelancer based in Dallas, Texas.

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