Cook County said goodbye Saturday to officer Cuauhtemoc Estrada, the sheriff's investigator and Marine Corps veteran who was shot and killed Dec. 20 while protecting his daughter and her boyfriend from armed robbers.
In Holy Name Cathedral, Estrada was celebrated as a dedicated officer who cared deeply about his family and his community. He died serving both, and law enforcement officials from all over Cook County and beyond filled the pews at the Near North Side church to pay their respects.
“He was just a good, strong person with a lot of love for our family,” said Felipe Gallegos, a nephew, who gave the eulogy. “He'd give out the best helping hand he could give to you.”
Hundreds of suburban, county, state, Chicago and federal law enforcement officers lined the street outside the Roman Catholic cathedral before the service. The block in front of the church remained quiet until a band of bagpipes and drums signaled the hearse’s arrival. Many passers-by stopped to watch and photograph the procession, which also included a police color guard.
The officers and deputies, many wearing dress uniforms with black mourning bands across their stars, saluted Estrada's casket as it was carried into the church. Inside the church, mourners stood as the casket was sprinkled with holy water. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez were among those in attendance.
After the service, law enforcement vehicles from dozens of jurisdictions drove to the burial site at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in west suburban Hillside with their lights flashing.
Estrada, 50, died Dec. 20 after two men in ski masks and hoodies attempted to rob Estrada's daughter and her boyfriend outside a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in west suburban Bellwood, prosecutors said. The couple were carrying food inside from a car when they were confronted.
Estrada, who was hosting a holiday party at the building and was off duty, went outside and attempted to break up the robbery, police and prosecutors said. When he pulled his gun, he was shot by one of the men, authorities said. The nearly 20-year veteran of the sheriff's department was later pronounced dead at Loyola University Medical Center.
Police said they tracked footprints from the crime scene to a nearby house, where they arrested two men. Brandon Jackson and Gage Thornton, both 22, were ordered held without bail Monday. They face charges of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery.
In his eulogy, Gallegos read a letter from Estrada’s children. “You were always our hero,” they wrote. Gallegos said his uncle was a loving man with whom he shared many laughs and enjoyed spending time. As a child, he said, he savored the “the joy of knowing he was on the way to us at our house.”
Estrada’s slaying was a tragic contradiction to the holiday spirit he was celebrating that night, said Monsignor Dan Mayall, who gave the homily.
“What happened on the 20th of December was sudden, was horrible,” said Mayall, Holy Name’s pastor.
But the priest said that the hundreds who gathered at the cathedral were a testament to the promise that, despite the heartbreak, there was hope.
“On a day like this, a unique day, when you commend someone with whom you worked, served — someone you loved, respected — you want to say and do all the right things,” Mayall said. “That's exactly what we’re doing this morning. The light always wins. The light always wins.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun