Officer Gabriel Garcia
Photo credit: San Bernardino Police Department
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Cards drawn in crayon, candles lit in a tearful vigil, 140-character messages of support or donations quietly sent to help the family -- there have been a lot of responses to the shooting of Officer Gabriel Garcia and his continued battle in the hospital.
In a city that often accuses itself of divisiveness and where public safety can be a lightning rod, though, the support has been nearly universal.
"We will pray to every God imaginable for you to recover," one hand-drawn card read, along with a drawing of an American flag and a police officer standing beside his car. "Get well."
A mom and her two daughters dropped it off Friday night, police say. The same night, 75 people with connections to law enforcement, San Bernardino or Garcia attended a candlelight vigil outside Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.
It was an uncertain night, a painful night, as Garcia remained in a medically induced coma and no word came about possible changes to his condition.
The morning brought news that there was no news. Garcia's condition remained critical as he passed 24 hours since the shooting and throughout Saturday, but Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said Garcia continued to fight, after the end of Friday brought "slightly" better news than earlier reports of "grave condition." The next three to five days, according to the department, will be critical.
"Family reports that overnight treatment went as well as could be expected," Burguan wrote on Twitter. "Plz keep Gabe in prayer."
He was heeded.
"The first thing I thought of when I woke up was Gabriel Garcia," Christina Leon Jones wrote to the department on Twitter. "So believe me, the whole city is praying for him!"
Jones, who works for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and lives in San Bernardino, said by phone Saturday that she felt connected to Garcia on multiple levels. She couldn't stop her thoughts, prayers and conversations from returning repeatedly to the officer, she said.
She wasn't the only one. It's been noticed. And it may be making a difference.
"The outpouring of support from LE (law enforcement) and the community has been incredible," Burguan posted on Twitter on Saturday morning. "I just wanted to express how appreciative I am of all the kindness."
The Garcia family and the Police Department overall, he said, are also very grateful.
"From Gabe's family and friends, to fellow officers, and the community at large, Gabe has an incredible support system," Burguan said.
The Police Officers Foundation is taking donations to help Garcia's family. The donations can be sent by PayPal or to the 501(c)3: San Bernardino Police Officers Foundation, c/o Gabriel Garcia, P.O. Box 2967, San Bernardino, CA 92405
A few online messages have questioned why people automatically assume the officer and his trainee, who say they came on a group of five individuals and were attacked, are in the right. But overall, the community is grieving and hoping.
Normal, boisterous greetings between San Bernardino police officers were a bit subdued at Friday night's vigil outside the hospital.
They still clasped hands and patted one another on the back. But the thud of palm on bullet-proof vest was dimmer than usual.
Friday night was a time of anguish.
Tony Dececio is a lieutenant at the sheriff's Highland station and has known Gabriel's father, San Bernardino police Capt. Ron Garcia, for more than 25 years, describing him as a man who cares greatly about his family and community.
"How can a father function as a police officer when his son is wounded in the line of duty?" Dececio asked. "It's just unbelievable."
Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, attended the vigil, saying violence in the community needed to stop.
And along with more than 2,000 people via social media, elected officials from the City Council to city clerk to mayor have expressed deep feelings.
"My prayers go out to this officer and his family -- and to the entire department of brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day in order to protect us," Mayor Carey Davis said in one message. "Your thoughts, support and prayers are very much appreciated as we work through this tragic ordeal. Now more than ever our community must come together in support of the brave officers of our City's police department."
Staff Writer Greg Cappis contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 - San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service