Officer Robert Deckard
Officer Robert Deckard
Photo credit: San Antonio Police Department
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Blue police helicopters flew in formation just above the treetops at Mission Burial Park Saturday, over the crowd gathered there for Officer Robert Deckard's funeral.
Deckard, who was killed in pursuit of robbery suspects last month, was buried just after 2 p.m.
Minutes before, Police Chief William McManus instructed a dispatch officer to announce that Deckard's badge number, 0582, would be retired. San Antonio police officers received the message over their department radios.
Deckard was shot during a dangerous, high-speed pursuit of two armed robbery suspects on Dec. 8 and died 13 days later. His funeral Saturday morning at Cornerstone Church drew thousands of fellow officers from across the country.
Members of the honor guard stood before Deckard's flag-draped casket at Cornerstone Church and gave him a final salute before beginning a massive funeral procession that closed several major roads to traffic for about an hour.
Ever since he was a police cadet, Deckard wanted to be a member of the San Antonio honor guard who perform their duties at the funerals of fallen officers. "I feel this is the highest position of honor inside the department," Deckard wrote in a Nov.3 email to a police supervisor to apply for the job.
His colleagues, friends and family remembered Deckard as a dedicated officer whose charm and humor won them over time and time again.
A slideshow of photos with Deckard invariably showed him in uniform and smiling -- a big confident smile. He looked like he enjoyed every minute of being a police officer.
But it was also a dangerous job.
Deckard had been pursuing two armed robbery suspects -- Shawn Ruiz Puente, 32, and Jenevieve Ramos, 28 -- when he was shot. Authorities say the pair had been involved in a rash of robberies. A police bulletin was issued last month describing the robbers and their vehicle -- a Mitsubishi Lancer with racing stripes.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Puente spray-painted the car entirely in black to try foiling police. It didn't fool Deckard. While patrolling the city's South Side, he spotted the Lancer with Puente driving and Ramos in the passenger seat.
Deckard hadn't been scheduled to work that day -- he had been filling in for a colleague as a favor. The seven-year police veteran tried to pull the suspects over. When they sped away, he pursued them.
The chase spanned three counties and reached speeds of 100 mph. Officers from the Department of Public Safety, Wilson County, Atascosa County, Texas Rangers and Texas Parks and Wildlife joined the pursuit.
As the robbery suspects raced south on Interstate 37 into Atascosa County, one of them opened fire and a bullet pierced the windshield of Deckard's cruiser and struck him in the forehead.
They also shot at a Poth police officer, who returned fire. No one else was hit.
The Lancer was later found abandoned in Wilson County, but police found the suspected robbers hiding in a ravine. They were arrested and now face capital murder charges.
Thousands of fellow officers from across the country are attending a funeral for Deckard, who died on Dec. 20 after 13 days in intensive care.
Copyright 2014 - San Antonio Express-News
McClatchy-Tribune News Service