'He came to this country to be a police officer:' Chief at funeral for slain police corporal

Image 1 of 2

 Funeral services were held Saturday in at a church for Cpl. Ronil Singh, who authorities say was shot to death by a man in the country illegally, and where people remembered him for his kind heart, his love of fishing and his desire to be an American police officer.

Singh, who emigrated from his native Fiji from a small, rural community to pursue a career in law enforcement, joined the 12-member Newman police force in 2011. The 33-year-old husband and father was killed Dec. 26 when he pulled over a suspected drunk driver who was also an undocumented immigrant. Gustavo Arriaga Perez has since been charged with his murder and whose lawyer is arguing is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

At the funeral, Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson spoke emotionally, saying that Singh told him during his job interview that he came to the country to become a police officer. He added with a laugh that Singh wore his American flag pin upside down at first, before Richardson pointed it out to him.

He also said that Singh had a huge heart and joked that he was a horrible driver, wrecking at least three patrol vehicles. 

In tears, Richardson told Singh's wife and baby that he would do anything for them.

"You guys are my family too," he said.

Singh's brother, Reggie Singh, thanked police officers for capturing the suspect, and told the mourners that his brother picked to come to the United States because they "had the best police officers" there.

Other colleagues told stories of Singh's love of fishing and how he would often play suspect's favorite songs in the patrol car to cheer them up. The Fijian ambassador to to the United States also attended the funeral.

Hours before he was killed, Singh had been home celebrating Christmas with family and K-9 dog before starting his night shift.

An intense, dayslong manhunt led to the arrest Perez Arriaga, 33, who authorities said was preparing to flee to Mexico.  Seven others arrested on suspicion of helping him evade authorities.

The case has rekindled a debate over California's sanctuary law that limits cooperation by local authorities with federal immigration authorities. President Donald Trump has cited Singh's killing 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.

Trump mentioned at a news conference Friday that he called Singh's family to offer his condolences.

On Friday, Singh's casket was draped in an American flag and driven about 25 miles in a procession from Modesto into a theater in the small town of Newman for a viewing. People lined up along the streets to honor the fallen officer.

Singh's body will be taken on a procession to its final resting place at Lakewood Memorial Park in the nearby town of Hughson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.