El Paso police Officer Angel Garcia had the characteristics of a future El Paso Police Department leader before he was killed in a traffic accident on Sunday.
The 27-year-old officer was a go-getter, who could have really helped El Paso, his supervisor said after his funeral Friday.
"The sky was the limit with his work ethic and his knowledge," said Lt. Gabriel Lucero, Garcia's shift supervisor. "He could have gone all the way to being a chief for us."
Garcia, a Mission Valley patrolman, died Sunday morning when a car hit him while he was trying to remove a ladder from Interstate 10 East near Cielo Vista Mall.
The Clint High School graduate and active Marine reservist graduated from the police academy nine months earlier.
Garcia had dreamed of becoming a police officer since he was 5 years old, his family said.
Investigators are still trying to determine the chain of events that led to Garcia's death, but preliminary reports indicate that he was hit by one of three cars involved in the accident.
Friends, family and other law enforcement officers attended an intimate Mass at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, followed by a burial at Mount Carmel Cemetery.
A group of children held up letters spelling "Thank you Ofc. Garcia," as a procession of police motorcycles and funeral home vehicles entered the church's parking lot.
As officers carried his flag-draped casket into the church, residents who had walked from their homes stood on the sidewalk to pay their respects.
"I came out to show my respect to the police," said Rosa Gutierrez, 60, who lives down the street from the church. "I heard about the accident by reading the newspaper and watching TV."
A United States flag was flown by a firetruck at both the church and the cemetery as helicopters from the U.S. Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety flew overhead.
U.S. Marines carried Garcia's casket at the cemetery, and "Amazing Grace" was played on bagpipes.
Garcia joined the Marines before he became a police officer.
Garcia's family asked for their privacy through the El Paso Police Department, but they did offer a statement.
"We are saddened by the loss of our beloved son Angel David Garcia," the statement said. "Angel pursued his long-time dream of being a police officer with a positive and giving attitude."
The family thanked the community for its support and said Garcia was proud of his time on the police force and in the military.
"We pray for all public servants, military personnel, their families, and are grateful to have a very supportive police department," the statement said.
After the Garcia family was presented two flags, one from the Marines and one from the Police Department, a flock of doves was released into the sky.
"It was a very touching, emotional and proper funeral," Lucero said. "It was well deserved."
Garcia's military background and natural instincts made him "a gift from God," to the Police Department, Lucero said.
"He did the small things that as a veteran officer you overlook or forget about," Lucero said.
"I'd go into work at 5:30 a.m. and he was already there, had finished his workout and was getting showered up."
Sgt. Lawrence Lujan, one of Garcia's senior supervisors, echoed Lucero's words and said Garcia was "a fine example for all young men."
"His life was lost to help others," Lujan said. "There was a lot of traffic on the road that day and anyone could have hit the ladder, gotten into an accident and died."
Even though Garcia's career was in its beginning stages, his actions and tragic death will leave a lasting impression in the department, Lujan said.
"His name and family will never be forgotten within the El Paso Police Department because we are one big family," Lujan said.
Lujan said it was a tough loss for the entire Police Department, which just lost Officer Jonathan Molina in late September when he was beaten to death.
"We try to prepare for something like this, but nobody can ever be prepared," he said. "The best we can do is watch out for each other. If you see one person grieving you have to help them pick their head up."
Mayor John Cook and Northeast city Rep. Carl Robinson attended Garcia's funeral.
"It's a sad day when we lose anybody, but particularly one of our police officers or first responders," Robinson said. "The fact that he was also a fellow veteran was very special for me. He served our country with honor."
Aaron Bracamontes may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6156. Follow him on Twitter @AaronBrac