Pomona PD Officer Greggory Casillas was sworn in only six months ago, and was nearly finished with field training. Yet, on Friday, the 30-year-old officer who is married and the father of two young children was shot to death at the beginning of what would become a 15-hour stand off with a suspect who barricaded himself inside a Pomona apartment, then began firing on officers.
“It’s a sad day for the Pomona Police Department, and it’s a sad day for our community, and its a sad day for law enforcement in general,” said Pomona PD Chief, Michael Olivieri in a grim press conference where he announced that one of his officers had died.
Officer Casillas had been working for the department in civilian positions since 2014, beginning as a record specialist then, the following year, becoming a jailer. Finally he applied for his dream job, which was to become a sworn police officer. Casillas received his Pomona Police Department badge in September 2017.
According to Chief Oliveri, the newly minted cop felt that taking his earlier positions working for the force would prepare him to be a better police officer when he reached his ultimate goal.
An ordinary-appearing incident turns deadly
The incident began at around 9 p.m. Saturday night when two officers responded to a call that someone was driving recklessly. They located the driver of the vehicle, a truck, but instead pulling over, the man raced away, and a chase began. As the chase continued, the driver crashed his truck into another vehicle near an apartment complex in the 1400 block of Palomares Street in Pomona.
After crashing, the suspect took off on foot into the courtyard of the complex, as the two officers ran in pursuit, then he disappeared into an apartment inside the building.
The two officers approached the apartment, intending to contact the suspect and make an arrest. Instead, the suspect opened fire on through the closed apartment door, hitting one of the officers.
The second officer rushed in to pull his wounded comrade to safety. But as he did so, the suspect fired again, hitting him in the face.
At first, Pomona PD officers could not extract the two wounded officers because of additional gunfire. Eventually, they succeeded and both were rushed to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.
One officer was taken quickly to surgery, but he is expected to recover.
Casillas, however, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
In the meantime, the Special Enforcement Team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene to support the Pomona PD, as did officers from various other agencies*, as the deadly incident turned into a lengthy stand-off.
As the long hours pass
According to a statement from the LA sheriffs, the LASD’s Crisis Negotiations Team members made verbal attempts to persuade the suspect to surrender, but the man would not comply.
SEB deputies reportedly used various diversionary tactics, including flash bangs and tear gas, yet the suspect remained barricaded.
Finally, the SEB team entered the location where the suspect was hiding, “and deployed LASD K-9.”
This ultimately led to the suspect, 39-year-old Isaias De Jesus Valencia of Pomona, being taken into custody, dressed only in his underpants. He was booked for suspicion of murder of a police officer and attempted murder of other peace officers. of a police officer and the attempted murder of other peace officers, and is being held on $1 million in bail.
Reports of mental illness
ABC7’s reporters spoke to a resident at the scene who said he knows the gunman and described him as a father of three who is battling severe depression.
“He’s a family man. He’s faced with mental illness…” Amos Young told the reporters.
In later interviews Young described Valencia as having been in “extreme need of mental healthcare” since his return from the military.
Other neighbors told LA Times reporters that they spotted a woman they said was the suspect’s mother who was crying and vomiting outside the apartment building, and soon after got into a police SUV.
Honoring the fallen hero
Earlier in the day, fellow police stood and solemnly saluted as a line of patrol cars from Pomona, San Gabriel Valley, and elsewhere, followed the body of Pomona PD Officer Greggory Casillas from the hospital to the office of the Los Angeles County Coroner.
“He left his family at home to protect yours,” Chief Oliveri told those gathered at a press conference after the suspect had been arrested. “His ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Governor Jerry Brown ordered flags at the Capitol to fly at half-staff in honor of the slain officer.
“Anne and I are saddened by the tragic death of Officer Casillas,” Brown said in a statement on Saturday. “His brave sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department also commented on the Pomona officer’s death.
“Another hero gone too soon,” he said. “These tragedies are occurring too often, and the pains of sacrifice will never be forgotten.” Beck said that all the members of the department he leads “will be wearing black mourning bands” to honor Greggory Casillas.
In writing this extremely painful story we were reminded that, on average, law enforcement officers killed the line of duty leave behind two children, just like Officer Casillas.
As of today, 17 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed by gunfire in the line of duty.
Top image of Officer Casillas being sworn in is courtesy of the Pomona Police Department
*Updated Monday, 3-12-2018, 11:32 a.m. to make clear that multiple local law enforcement agencies came to help the Pomona P.D.