SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - The San Jose Police Department is mourning the loss of one its officers who lost her battle with brain cancer. 49-year-old old Margaret Sandez was a 17-year veteran of the force and helped recruit LGBTQ officers.
Sandez was known as the life of the party always dancing, smiling and laughing. She was there for her community and for her department. Her law enforcement family said she will be sorely missed.
At La Colina Park in South San Jose on Monday night, not far from the Sandez family home, loved ones gathered to pray and to honor the life of San Jose Police Officer Margaret Sandez.
“It’s very sad,” said San Jose Police Officer Serina Mendez. “I lost a true friend. It's just been very tough.”
Sandez had no family history of cancer when back in July, doctors found a tumor at the stem of her brain. They started treatment and gave her at least one to two years to live.
When Sandez struggled to walk up and down the stairs at home, her fellow officers built her a wet room.
Then, earlier this month, Sandez was unable to sit up. She was rushed to the emergency room. Doctors changed her prognosis.
“They said it was no coming back from this, it was serious,” said Wife Vanessa Sandez.
Sandez passed away Thursday at midnight. Dozens of police officers escorted her body from the hospital to the funeral home.
Born and raised in East San Jose, Sandez wanted to become an officer for one reason.
“She never saw brown women who were lesbian helping her,” said Wife Vanessa Sandez. “She wanted to be that for queer, LGBTQ brown kids.”
She was about to become a sergeant before she got ill. She most recently worked in the family violence unit.
Known for giving back to the community, the police chief put her picture and her kids’ pictures on an ice cream truck used for community policing.
“She was all about San Jose,” said San Jose Police Sgt. Maria Solomon. “She loved to wear this uniform. She was proud to put it on every day. She was our poster child.”
Officers helped take Sandez to her cancer treatments and were by her side in her final moments. They said they can only now aspire to be like her.
“She taught us how to cherish life and just grab life by its horns and ride and have a blast doing it,” said Sgt. Solomon.
Sandez leaves behind two young children, ages 6 and 11. Her wife asks officers to write letters to them with stories about Sandez. Her family plans to bury her at Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose.