Monday, November 12, 2007

Rialto Police, Slain Officer's Family bid Farewell to a Hero (Press Enterprise Oct 27, 2007)

BS Ranch Perspective

I don't have many words here, my heart is heavy, Carrera was a real nice guy.  I only got to know him slightly as my time at Rialto had passed slightly, I almost died at Rialto, in 1997, and I survived my on duty crash, I sometimes wonder if I was the lucky one that had survived that crash that day. It has not been such a picnic. I wanted to go to the graveside, but I was not able to, because of two people at Chino Hills that forced me to leave the motorcade. by the time that I got back to the Inland Empire It was to late to join them at the Grave side. I would have loved to have gone.

BS Ranch

Rialto police, slain officer's family bid farewell to a hero


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08:44 AM PDT on Saturday, October 27, 2007
By ADAM C. HARTMANN and MARY BENDER
The Press-Enterprise

Video: Scenes from the funeral

Slideshow: Sergio Carrera Jr. funeral

CHINO HILLS - Just four years and 10 days after Officer Sergio Carrera Jr. first pinned on his Rialto police badge, a bullet felled the SWAT team member.

On Friday, an estimated 2,500 family, friends and fellow police officers paid an emotional tribute to Carrera, killed Oct. 18 while serving a narcotics search warrant.

Officer Lamont Quarker painted a vivid picture of Carrera, his patrol and SWAT partner, during a funeral Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Chino Hills.

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Stan Lim / The Press-Enterprise
Sergio Carrera III kisses the casket of his father, Rialto police Officer Sergio Carrera Jr., with the help of his aunt Shirley MagaƱa at Montecito Memorial Park.

Carrera, a Beaumont resident, was a prankster who needled Quarker with police nicknames from the moment they met -- pretending to be a much senior officer, even though both were fresh out of separate police academies.

"Congratulations, boot. I might be your FTO (field training officer)," Carrera said to the guy who would become his best police friend. He was to be best man at Quarker's wedding next month.

"I didn't know that Sergio had only graduated two days before me, so I said: 'Thank you, sir,' " Quarker recalled.

The ruse continued their first day on the job in Rialto, Oct. 8, 2003. "What's up, rookie?" Carrera said. Quarker caught on when he was sworn in -- and there was Carrera, doing the same.

But he also had a serious side devoted to police work. Quarker told the gathering about a patrol response to a house he had visited many times, with an incorrigible teenager and parents at their wits' end. Carrera spent 45 minutes counseling the boy.

A year later, Quarker saw the 17-year-old working at a Fontana bank. The boy told him Carrera's words that night turned him around.

Fatal Encounter

Carrera was shot at a Rialto apartment shared by Kris Antonio Wiggins; his girlfriend, Nashalla Bell; and the couple's three children. Carrera died shortly thereafter at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.

The San Bernardino County district attorney's office charged Wiggins, 32, with one count of murder with special allegations. Also known by the alias Jaranard Thomas, Wiggins is wanted in Mississippi on a $100,000 warrant charging him with selling rock cocaine, San Bernardino County sheriff's officials have said.

The only reference to Wiggins came from Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling, who said Carrera had been murdered.

Attendees, many wearing police dress uniforms, lined every available row of the church, the largest in the Diocese of San Bernardino, and the church's overflow rooms. The hush in the sanctuary belied the huge turnout, with the squeak of leather holsters and the trickle of the church's baptismal font audible in quiet moments.

Those attending the ceremony included state Attorney General Jerry Brown; Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto; his son Rialto City Councilman Joe Baca Jr.; and Fontana City Councilman Frank Scialdone, who served as Rialto's interim police chief in 2005 and 2006.

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Father, Quipster

Kling said his eulogy would be the hardest speech he's given in his 27-year police career. "Today I have the honor of talking about a hero," Kling said, describing Carrera as a "modern-day warrior."

He told the officer's family -- including widow Louise and their toddlers Sergio III and Izabella -- that he had "no words" to describe the pain of Carrera's death.

"I have officially retired Officer Sergio Carrera's badge. It will never be used or issued again," Kling said, promising to give it to Louise and to honor Carrera and Rialto police Sgt. Gary Wolfley, slain in 1986, on a future police station memorial.

Quarker said the No. 1 goal that he and "Serg" had was to join the SWAT team. "It was all we talked about," Quarker said. "When we got into that SWAT school, we were so proud."

Quarker choked up as he recalled their training in Santa Barbara. The duo had "a beautiful friendship that lasted four years," Quarker said, breaking down when he revealed he had been with Carrera the day he died.

At the foot of the altar, the casket, flanked by two honor guard officers, sat next to a portrait of a beaming Carrera behind the wheel of his Rialto police cruiser, one elbow cocked jauntily out the window.

The picture also appeared on the funeral program, and the ironic smile on Carrera's face seemed to capture the man his colleagues described as one part doting father, one part quipster.

Kling said Carrera could "turn a conversation on you without you even knowing."

"Sergio was a gifted man who left you asking, 'Did I just get cracked?' " Kling said.

Miles-Long Motorcade

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As the funeral drew to a close in the early afternoon, the priest wafted incense toward Carrera's casket, which was wheeled from the church as a soloist sang "Amazing Grace."

Mourners then formed a miles-long motorcade of patrol cars, red and blue rooftop lights swirling, that snaked along city streets and three freeways between the Chino Hills church and the Colton cemetery.

A pair of Chino Valley Fire District crews, alongside their yellow rigs, saluted as the procession rolled past their Peyton Drive fire station and again as it turned from Riverside Drive onto Reservoir Street.

In Chino, a cluster of women and children standing on the side of Riverside Drive, and several people on the Pipeline Avenue bridge over Highway 60, waved to and watched the passing motorcade. Drivers, stuck on Interstate 15 and numerous onramps blocked by California Highway Patrol officers, got out of their cars to watch the procession or snap photos.

Fontana police and CHP officers, who patrolled Rialto on Friday so the city' entire force could attend Carrera's funeral, stood at attention on the Riverside Avenue bridge along Interstate 10.

A crew from the Colton Fire Department stood atop their ladder truck in tribute as the motorcade passed under the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge.

American flags placed by cemetery staff in honor of Carrera lined the long entrance to Montecito Memorial Park, where smoke from Southern California's weeklong brush fires obscured the panoramic view at Carrera's hilltop grave site.

Missing Man

Monsignor Thomas Wallace presented crucifixes to the officer's widow and his mother, Aurora. Blue ribbons, tied into small bows, adorned the lapels of Carrera's relatives.

The traditional elements of police funerals reduced Carrera's law enforcement colleagues and loved ones to tears and quiet sobs: a bagpiper's rendition of "Amazing Grace," a firearm salute, the mournful strains of taps by a bugler on a nearby hillside, and the flyover of five helicopters, one of them peeling off to the side in the missing man formation.

A white-gloved Rialto police honor guard, which included Quarker, folded the American flag that covered his casket. Kling and Rep. Baca presented flags to Louise and Aurora Carrera, as the officer's father held his toddler grandson.

As a sign of respect and solidarity, several officers removed black bands fastened to their shoulder epaulets and placed them atop Carrera's dark wooden casket. An aunt lifted up young Izabella to tap on her father's casket.

The 45-minute gathering culminated with the officer's widow, parents, sisters and nieces dropping flowers onto the burial chamber after cemetery workers lowered it to grass level. A relative draped Sergio III across the casket, while his mother urged the boy to kiss it and say goodbye to Daddy.

Reach Adam C. Hartmann at 909-806-3055 or ahartmann@PE.com

Reach Mary Bender at 909-806-3056 or mbender@PE.com

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