HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) - A devastated community came together in Hollywood, as hundreds of people paid their respects to a police officer who was fatally gunned down in the line of duty.
7News cameras captured the large crowd at a memorial service for Hollywood Police Officer Yandy Chirino at Mara Berman Giulianti Park, located in the Emerald Hills neighborhood, Thursday evening.
Members of the Hollywood Police Department were seen consoling each other as the service got underway, at around 6 p.m.
Residents of Emerald Hills said they wanted to honor Chirino and thank the officers for the protection and peace they provide.
“Anybody who takes care of us, we’re going to take care of them in return,” said area resident Risa Chopp.
Hours earlier, 7SkyForce hovered above a police escort in Miami Lakes as Chirino’s body was moved from a medical examiner’s office to a funeral home, as loved ones and the police department prepare for his funeral on Nov. 1.
Chirino’s parents joined friends and colleagues at a memorial for the fallen officer on Tuesday evening. Mourners gathered around the 28-year-old’s squad car.
Thursday’s service took place near the location where, police said, Chirino was fatally struck, at around 10:30 p.m., Sunday.
“We live a block away from where this happened, and we felt like we were a part of it that night,” said area resident Susie Loberfeld.
Investigators said 18-year-old Jason Banegas was riding a stolen bicycle and carrying a stolen gun when he got into a physical struggle with Chirino.
Detectives said Banegas was breaking into nearby cars at the time. The suspect told them he was trying to kill himself when he pulled the trigger.
Instead, police said, Chirino was shot in the face. He was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital where he later died.
Hollywood Police Chief O’Brien praised Chirino’s commitment during the memorial service.
“He kept fighting. Why did he keep fighting? Because he loved this community, and he loved his job,” he said.
A makeshift memorial continues to grow outside of Mara Berman Giulianti Park. Officers gathered to watch neighbors place flowers and flags, while children signed a large banner. Volunteers placed signs with Chirino’s picture around the park.
“He used to come here all the time and play for hours,” said neighbor David Flajsing.
Hollywood Commissioner Adam Gruber also addressed mourners during the service.
“For the community of Emerald Hills, this has always been a happy place,” he said. “To the family of Officer Chirino, our community owes you a debt of gratitude of immeasurable proportions.”
Hours before the service, police released surveillance stills of two cars seen in the area Sunday night. The pictures are grainy, but detectives said the drivers could be potential witnesses, and they would like to talk to them.
Detectives urge anyone who may have witnessed Officer Chirino’s shooting or has any information about the incident to call Hollywood Police at 954-764-4357.
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