By Phill Casaus
Source The Santa Fe New Mexican
RIO RANCHO, NM—They sat together, row by row, cop after cop, badge next to badge. Thin Blue Line? This was a thick blue wave.
But as the memorial service for Officer Robert Duran progressed Saturday afternoon, the fissures in police officers' hard-earned stoicism began to emerge: a tear here, a cleared throat there, a deep sigh that signaled the depth of loss for a brotherhood and sisterhood of people who go to work each morning with no money-back guarantee they'll come home at night.
- N.M. Officer, Driver Die in 4-Vehicle Crash During Carjacking Chase
- Fallen N.M. Officer Remembered: 'He Always Used His Brain FIrst'
The reality came home in a cavernous sports arena where heartbreak echoed deeply.
"Robert," Santa Fe Police Department interim Chief Paul Joye said, his deep baritone voice quaking into the microphone, "we love you. We miss you. We thank you."
Even more than 80 yards from the casket that held the Santa Fe senior police officer's body, men and women in uniforms — cops from Bloomfield to Bosque Farms, Los Alamos to Tucumcari — dabbed at their eyes. Duran was one of them, and many understood they could have been him.
Duran's death March 2, during a wrong-way car chase spurred by the now-discredited report of a kidnapping, sent a shudder through the law enforcement community. Speakers at the officer's service, a gathering at the Rio Rancho Events Center that drew close to 1,000 people, made special note of the risk and the reality.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who attended the ceremony, called Duran's death an "unfathomable, unfair loss."
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber: "Their loss is our loss. Their tears are our tears. Their grief is our grief. We are intertwined in a web of caring and compassion. In the tragic death of Officer Duran, we have lost far too much, far too soon."
For those who knew Duran well, talking about his death was agonizing, perhaps because they found so much joy in his 43 years of life. Santa Fe police Sgt. Nick Chavez, who heads the department's Emergency Response Team on which Duran served, was nearly overwhelmed by emotion as he spoke about finding a teammate, a buddy, who was always there to help on big jobs and small.
"I am so proud to say I had the honor to have you by my side, building this team," he said, addressing his friend. "I could not have done it without you, man. Your legacy on this team, in this department, will always be strong in our lives forever. Your smiles, your laughter, the moments we shared will always be in my heart. This is not goodbye, bro. This is only until I see you again. Fly high, my brother; we have the watch from here."
Members of Duran's family also spoke about the void left by Duran's death, but his sister, Angela Gamino, alluded to the frustration felt by many in the building about New Mexico's crime problem.
She did not directly mention Jeannine Jaramillo, the woman accused of leading Duran and other Santa Fe officers on the chase that led to the deadly crash that also killed retired Las Vegas, N.M., firefighter Frank Lovato. But she referenced the repeat offenders cops sometimes deal with.
"I'll let it be known that one of the last conversations I had with my brother was the frustration with the revolving door and the lack of accountability in our state," Gamino said. "It made him feel unappreciated for the daily sacrifice his brothers and sisters in blue make, a sacrifice not only they are making but their families are making along with them. We as a state need to step up and help protect them as they protect us."
Jaramillo faces a pair of first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Duran and Lovato, whose funeral was held Saturday at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Las Vegas.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Jaramillo asked a pedestrian in the parking lot of a Santa Fe apartment complex to call emergency dispatchers and tell them a male passenger was armed with a knife and would not let her out of the vehicle she was driving.
The pedestrian did as asked, according to the affidavit, and Santa Fe police officers responded, and the chase on Interstate 25 soon began. After the crash, she pointed investigators to an alleged kidnapper, though the story was later discredited.
According to online court records, Jaramillo's criminal history is long and includes charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement officer and possession of a controlled subject stemming from an incident in September in Cibola County. She was accused of failing to pull over when a deputy attempted a traffic stop and traveling at high speeds, sometimes on the wrong side of the road, during a pursuit.
According to report written by a Cibola County deputy, Jaramillo claimed a man had been holding a knife to her neck and forced her to flee.
Prosecutors asked the court to dismiss those charges a few weeks later, pending further investigation, according to court records. She was arrested again in October by a Cibola County detective investigating the theft of a CenturyLink bucket truck. Court records show the case was dismissed last fall to allow for more investigation.
"This tragedy is so senseless and so unfair," Gamino said, beginning to cry. "I need my brother here. My nephews need their dad. And my sister-in-law needs her husband. They still had so many dreams and plans for their future."
The nearly two-hour service concluded at the arena, but officers — all wearing a black band emblazoned with 286, Duran's badge number — accompanied the Artesia native's casket and vehicles carrying his family members back to Santa Fe. Along the way, they were greeted with small clots of cars and people, many with American flags and others with flags emblazoned with a blue bar in honor of police. Some awaited on freeway overpasses between Bernalillo and Santa Fe.
As the cortege streamed into the city and down St. Francis Drive, a few people stood by the roadside in honor. More people awaited on Alta Vista Street, as the procession, headed by motorcycles, headed to Berardinelli Family Funeral Service.
Edward and Brenda Luján were on Alta Vista as the long line of vehicles rolled toward Santa Fe.
Neither knew Duran, but they said they felt like they did.
"It's my duty to be here," Edward Luján said, an American flag and staff lying across the roof of his Chevy.
"I just want to show my support," Brenda added, talking about police officers. "They care of us. Without them, where are we?"
Finally, as the procession came to an end, officers gathered in a parking lot near the funeral home — many shaking hands, others hugging. Joye stood near the group and took stock of the past terrible 10 days. March 2 may always be close at hand.
"I don't know what OK looks like on the other side of this," he said. "We've never ... it's been 90 years since our department's had something like this. We've been doing a lot of talking, a lot of grieving. It's going to take a while."
(c)2022 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)
Visit The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) at www.santafenewmexican.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.