By Associated Press
NEWMAN, Calif. — The flag-draped casket of a California police officer who authorities say was gunned down by a man in the country illegally was carried in a procession Friday through the streets he once patrolled to a public viewing in a community theater.
The case has rekindled a debate over California’s sanctuary law that limits cooperation with federal immigration authorities. President Donald Trump seized on the case to call for tougher border security amid a fight with congressional Democrats over funding for a border wall, which has forced a partial government shutdown.
On Thursday, Trump called Cpl. Ronil Singh’s family to offer his condolences, the White House said.
People waving American flags lined up along the streets of the Central Valley town of Newman where a viewing was held for Singh, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop on Dec. 26.
Prosecutors on Wednesday charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga in Singh’s killing. Perez Arriaga was arrested after a dayslong manhunt as he prepared to flee to Mexico, authorities said.
A casket carrying Singh’s body and draped with an American flag was driven in a procession from Modesto into a theater in Newman where the marquee read “Ronil Singh Forever Remember” while several officers saluted.
The casket was taken from the hearse into the theater for a viewing as the police department’s 12 officers and Singh’s family followed. A memorial service and burial is scheduled for Saturday in Modesto.
Singh, who emigrated from his native Fiji to pursue a career in law enforcement, joined the Newman police force in 2011. The 33-year-old was married and had a 5-month-old son.
Prosecutors said Perez Arriaga, 33, shot Singh after the officer stopped his vehicle to check if he was driving drunk. He has two previous drunken driving arrests, authorities said.
At his first court appearance, Perez Arriaga told the judge that his real name is Paulo Virgen Mendoza, but authorities were still referring to him as Perez Arriaga in court documents. A complaint lists three aliases for him, including Paulo Virgen Mendoza.
His attorney, Stephen Foley, questioned his client’s mental competency, leading the court to delay the case until a mental health evaluation. Perez Arriaga is set to return to court Feb. 7.
Two of Perez Arriaga’s brothers, his girlfriend and four others were arrested on suspicion of helping him evade authorities.