SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The 19th annual True Blue Luncheon celebrated the bravery shown by three officers who shared their experience in the Rolando shooting almost a year later.
The very shield that protected Officers Francisco Roman and Dan Bihum was at the luncheon, helping SD Police Foundation donors understand what their money is going toward. The shield is hefty, with a steel plate inside, according to Officer Trevor Philip.
Bihum said he saw two bright flashes, "two of the rounds struck me."
"He literally fell right in front of me it was probably one of the hardest moments of my life," Roman said.
That night, June 23, 2018, the distress call from a neighbor concerned about Joe Darwish turned into a gunfight injuring two officers and ultimately ending with Darwish's death.
The shield was handed to Roman and Bihum while they were trapped in the hallway.
"As soon as Francisco got the shield in front of them he took another volley of gunfire and two of the rounds hit the shield," a SWAT Officer said.
"Just a great feeling because we had some form of protection," Roman said.
Both officers struggled to share, as they relived the moments on that day.
"The shield absolutely saved our life," Roman said tearing up. He looked away, clenched his jaw and continued, "it definitely saved us for sure."
Thursday, they shared their story with a room full of donors in the Harbor Island Sheraton. Their goal is in sharing their trauma, they hoped to inspire San Diegans to open their wallets and help them buy 758 more shields so that their brothers and sisters in blue are protected.
The money raised by the luncheon goes to the San Diego Police Foundation, who helps buy whatever the department needs. In 2018, the luncheon raised $110,000. This year they hope to raise $115,000.
The 19-year tradition has a new name and has been filling the gap between city funds and SDPD's needs.