Procession, memorial held for slain Escondido police Officer Laura Perez

ESCONDIDO, Calif. - Grieving family, friends and law enforcement colleagues gathered Monday to bid farewell to a rookie Escondido police officer gunned down at her home last month, allegedly by her husband.

The late-morning services at Cal State San Marcos honored the life and public service of 25-year-old Laura Perez of Murrieta, who had been with the Escondido Police Department since October.

Among the mourners at the funeral were hundreds of Perez's law enforcement colleagues.

"It was a real tear-jerker," Lt. Eric Skaja said moments after the memorial service.

"It's a tragic loss," Escondido police Lt. Al Owens told a local TV station. "It still seems like a bad dream."

Owens said Perez, the second-ever female honors graduate from Palomar Police Academy, had been "definitely a rising star" and was "just a consummate professional."

"She did everything the right way, and she's probably one of the hardest workers I've ever seen," the lieutenant said. "We lost a superstar, but somehow we have to pick ourselves up and go on."

Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter delivered the eulogy saying, "The pain that has been endured by this family is equaled only by the love that still pours out of them for this young woman."

Perez had only worked as an officer for nine months, but she made a lasting impression on her peers, including her training officer Mario Sainz.

"The first day I had her in training, I told Laura, 'You are now officially my little sister and as my little sister, it's my job to watch out for you and teach you what you need to learn about being a successful officer,'" said Sainz, who was one of her pallbearers. He also got her patrol car washed and detailed, ready for the procession.

A funeral motorcade traveled from Escondido Police Department headquarters to the university student-union building where the ceremony took place.

The name Perez was nowhere to be found at the memorial for "Officer Laura" after her family requested the name she shared with her husband have no part in the ceremony.

His name was not mentioned during the service.

Perez was laid to rest in Riverside, where her family lives.  

After immigrating from Mexico a decade ago, Perez and her family settled in the Riverside area, the Valley Roadrunner reported. She met her future husband, 27- year-old Freddy Perez Rodas, while attending Riverside Polytechnic High.

"This is the first time that I can remember that we've had a violent death of an officer, obviously off-duty, so it's kind of a significant impact to us," said Escondido police Lt. Tom Albergo.

Perez's coworkers say she was a woman of few words and showed compassion even to those she arrested. She talked often about her daughter, who she loved dearly.

"I think she's highly missed by everybody," said Sainz. "Everybody who knew her, even the ones who didn't know her, knew what kind of person she was, what she represented and that's got to be missed because there's not enough of those people in the world."

"She's a fine, outstanding little girl," Carter said of Perez's daughter. "She looks just like her mom … If she grows up and wants to follow in her mother's footsteps, she has a job at Escondido Police."

Perez's daughter is now living with relatives.

Officer Laura's brother, Gerardo Rios, said, "Laura was passionate, hard-working, responsible, very detail-oriented and bright."  

He said she first told him she wanted to be a police officer when she was 6 years old.

"I laughed at her like, 'Wow, you're 6 years old and you already have your career path for you."  

Years later, Rios said she proudly announced that she was "going to the police academy."

Rios said his sister is now in a better place, adding, "We love you; we will never forget you. We will never forget your warm personality, your amazing smile, your kind and loving heart. Rest in peace, sister."

Rodas allegedly shot Perez during an argument at their Riverside County residence July 23 and then set fire to the house. The couple's 4-year-old daughter, Suzette, was not harmed.

Rodas has been charged with murder and arson and is being held in lieu of $2 million bail.

The Escondido Police Officers' Association is accepting monetary donations through its website, escpoa.com, to help Perez's family with funeral expenses and child-support costs.

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