Family and friends mourning a federal law enforcement officer who was fatally shot while guarding a U.S. courthouse in Oakland voiced poignant pleas Friday for an end to the violence that cut short his life, saying America needs to overcome discrimination and hatred.
David Patrick Underwood, 53, was remembered as a soft-spoken and gifted natural athlete, a lefty pitcher in high school who was valiant on the mound and graceful on the basketball court.
In life and in work, he was confident but never arrogant, friends and family said in moving tributes. He treated people with dignity and had a deep love for family and the uniform he proudly wore, they added.
He didn't judge people by the color of their skin, but by what was in their heart, they said.
Local and federal officials joined the two-hour ceremony in Pinole, California, a San Francisco Bay Area city, at the high school where Underwood was a star baseball player in the 1980s. Wearing face masks, mourners packed into the school's theater, where social distancing was mostly ignored, and paid tribute to Underwood, whose body lay in a blue casket on a gold stand.
Underwood, who was black, was killed May 29 while guarding the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland as a large demonstration was underway nearby over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“We must not be embittered by this horrific injustice. Hate, vengeance and violence solves nothing,” said his older sister, Angela Underwood Jacobs, a recent Republican candidate who sought to fill a vacant U.S. district seat north of Los Angeles.
She added: “We will, we must, as individuals and as a society overcome discrimination, bias, hatred and violence of any kind whether it be against African Americans or people who wear the uniform in peace, as our brother did, to protect and serve and to ensure the safety of all."
Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, joined the ceremony to honor Underwood and to deliver an American flag to his family. Gov. Gavin Newsom sent an officer of the California Highway Patrol who presented the family with a California flag.
In a separate video tribute, Wolf condemned the “senseless cowardly violence” that took Underwood’s life.
“Officer Underwood gave his life protecting us and we owe him and his family and colleagues a debt of gratitude we will never be able to fully repay,” said Wolf.
Underwood died from gunshot wounds in a drive-by shooting the night of May 29 as a protest in downtown Oakland that began peacefully sank into chaos. Underwood and a colleague were working that night as contract security officers for the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service.
Federal authorities say the shooter used the protest as cover for the crime. Authorities say that Underwood was targeted because he wore a uniform.
Last week, the FBI announced murder charges against Air Force Staff Sgt. Steve Carrillo. Authorities say Carrillo used the same homemade AR-15-style rifle eight days later to kill a Santa Cruz deputy in a hail of gunfire that wounded four other officers. Carrillo faces separate state charges for the June 6 fatal shooting of Santa Cruz County sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller.
Authorities allege that Carrillo, 32, had ties to the far-right, anti-government “boogaloo” movement and had hatched a plan to target federal law enforcement officials during the Oakland protest.
Colleagues described Underwood as hard-working, highly respected and conscientious. Friends and family talked of his hearty laugh, his personal style — he was a sharp dresser — and his giving heart. When he stopped playing baseball as an adult, he donated to local youth organizations, so he could help kids find joy in the sport he loved.
Underwood was the kind of guy you went to for advice, his older sister said.
“He’d always say, ‘Angie, believe in yourself. Work hard, and ask for what you want,' which is exactly what our mom and dad would have said," Jacobs said in a tribute to her brother. “Now that he’s gone, who am I going to call now?"
She added: “A brother, a friend, a mentor a leader, a good man has wrongly been taken from us."