Slain police officer called 'American hero' at his funeral

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California police officer who was killed in the line of duty was hailed Saturday as a "Fiji-born American hero" who made the ultimate sacrifice for his adopted country.

At a funeral held for Cpl. Ronil (row-neel) Singh, mourners remembered the 33-year-old as a hard-working immigrant who worked his way up to become an officer in the small town of Newman.

He "stood so much for what is right in our world and yet unfortunately was taken too soon from us by what is wrong in our world," Modesto police Officer Jeff Harmon said at the service in a Modesto church.

He "probably more than anything else wanted to be home on Christmas night with his wife and his young son, but instead made a selfless choice to serve all of his community knowing that there are many more than just his own family that needed his protection that night."

Singh was shot to death in the early hours of Dec. 26 after he pulled over a suspected drunk driver. The gunman fled, and a two-day-long manhunt led to the arrest of a man who authorities said was in the country illegally and was preparing to flee to Mexico.

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Funeral for Cpl. Ronil Singh
A picture of slain Newman Police Cpl. Ronil "Ron" Singh rests atop the casket during his funeral on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Modesto, Calif. According to authorities, prosecutors have charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who was in the United States illegally, with Singh's killing. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Police officers gather for the funeral of slain Newman police Cpl. Ronil "Ron" Singh on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Modesto, Calif. According to authorities, prosecutors have charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who was in the United States illegally, with Singh's killing. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A police officer waits for the start of a funeral procession for slain Newman police Cpl. Ronil "Ron" Singh on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Modesto, Calif. According to authorities, prosecutors have charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who was in the United States illegally, with Singh's killing. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Mourners gather for the funeral of slain Newman Police Cpl. Ronil "Ron" Singh on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Modesto, Calif. According to authorities, prosecutors have charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who was in the United States illegally, with Singh's killing. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Rhett Heron, 5, holds a sign as a procession accompanies the body of slain Newman police Cpl. Ronil "Ron" Singh on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Modesto, Calif. According to authorities, prosecutors have charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who was in the United States illegally, with Singh's killing. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Rachel Silva holds a sign as a procession accompanies the body of slain Newman police Cpl. Ronil "Ron" Singh on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Modesto, Calif. According to authorities, prosecutors have charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who was in the United States illegally, with Singh's killing. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Anamika Singh, widow of slain Newman Police Cpl. Ronil "Ron" Singh, holds their 5-month-old child during her husband's funeral on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Modesto, Calif. According to authorities, prosecutors have charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who was in the United States illegally, with Singh's killing. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Newman police officers carry the body of their slain colleague Cpl. Ronil "Ron" Singh during his funeral on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Modesto, Calif. According to authorities, prosecutors have charged Gustavo Perez Arriaga, who was in the United States illegally, with Singh's killing. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
FILE - This Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 file photo shows a collection of pictures of police Cpl. Ronil Singh during a candlelight vigil in Newman, Calif. The Northern California police officer was gunned down during a traffic stop the day after Christmas 2018. (Andy Alfaro/The Modesto Bee via AP, File)
FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 file photo, Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson and hundreds of others attend a vigil in memory of police Cpl. Ronil Singh in Newman, Calif. The Northern California police officer was gunned down during a traffic stop the day after Christmas 2018. (Andy Alfaro/The Modesto Bee via AP,File)
This Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 photo shows a collection of pictures of police Cpl. Ronil Singh during a candlelight vigil downtown Newman, Calif. The killing of the California police officer has rekindled the debate about the state's sanctuary law, which limits cooperation with U.S. immigration officials. (Andy Alfaro/The Modesto Bee via AP)
In this Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, photo, people hold candles and share stories at a vigil in memory of police Cpl. Ronil Singh downtown Newman, Calif. The killing of the California police officer has rekindled the debate about the state's sanctuary law, which limits cooperation with U.S. immigration officials. (Andy Alfaro/The Modesto Bee via AP)
MODESTO, CA - JANUARY 05: Police vehicles line up for the funeral procession for slain Newman police officer Corporal Ronil Singh on January 5, 2019 in Modesto, California. Hundreds of police officers from across the country along with members of the public came out to pay their respects after Cpl. Singh was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on December 26 following a traffic stop of a fugitive parolee. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
MODESTO, CA - JANUARY 05: Mourners hold signs during the funeral procession for slain Newman police officer Corporal Ronil Singh on January 5, 2019 in Modesto, California. Hundreds of police officers from across the country along with members of the public came out to pay their respects after Cpl. Singh was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on December 26 following a traffic stop of a fugitive parolee. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
MODESTO, CA - JANUARY 05: A police officer takes a photo of police vehicles during the funeral procession for slain Newman police officer Corporal Ronil Singh on January 5, 2019 in Modesto, California. Hundreds of police officers from across the country along with members of the public came out to pay their respects after Cpl. Singh was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on December 26 following a traffic stop of a fugitive parolee. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
MODESTO, CA - JANUARY 05: The funeral procession for slain Newman police officer Corporal Ronil Singh drives past mourners on January 5, 2019 in Modesto, California. Hundreds of police officers from across the country along with members of the public came out to pay their respects after Cpl. Singh was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on December 26 following a traffic stop of a fugitive parolee. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
MODESTO, CA - JANUARY 05: Police officers salute as the flag-draped casket of slain Newman police officer Corporal Ronil Singh is being carried to an awaiting hearse during a funeral service at CrossPoint Community church on January 5, 2019 in Modesto, California. Hundreds of police officers from across the country along with members of the public came out to pay their respects after Cpl. Singh was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on December 26 following a traffic stop of a fugitive parolee. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
MODESTO, CA - JANUARY 05: Officers with the Newman Police Department carry the flag-draped casket of slain officer Corporal Ronil Singh during a funeral service at CrossPoint Community Church on January 5, 2019 in Modesto, California. Hundreds of police officers from across the country along with members of the public came out to pay their respects after Cpl. Singh was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on December 26 following a traffic stop of a fugitive parolee. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
MODESTO, CA - JANUARY 05: Officer Jeffrey Harmon of the Modesto Police Department speaks as the flag-draped casket of slain Newman police officer Corporal Ronil Singh is seen during a funeral service at CrossPoint Community Church on January 5, 2019 in Modesto, California. Hundreds of police officers from across the country along with members of the public came out to pay their respects after Cpl. Singh was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on December 26 following a traffic stop of a fugitive parolee. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
MODESTO, CA - JANUARY 05: Officer Jeffrey Harmon of the Modesto Police Department speaks as the flag-draped casket of slain Newman police officer Corporal Ronil Singh is seen during a funeral service at CrossPoint Community Church on January 5, 2019 in Modesto, California. Hundreds of police officers from across the country along with members of the public came out to pay their respects after Cpl. Singh was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant on December 26 following a traffic stop of a fugitive parolee. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
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Gustavo Arriaga Perez, also 33, has since been charged with murder.

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. The impasse has forced a partial government shutdown that entered a 15th day Saturday.

At his funeral, however, Singh's brother and colleagues focused on his achievements and playful personality.

Singh grew up in a Fijian farming town and emigrated to central California in 2003. He joined the 12-member Newman police department in 2011 after attending police academy and serving as a volunteer, animal control officer and code enforcement officer at other agencies in the region.

"He told me he came to this country with one purpose, and that purpose was to become a police officer," Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson said. "He told me about all the pride he had in America, and how much it meant to get this opportunity."

Singh served as a K-9 officer before being promoted to a corporal at the Newman police department. He earned a bachelor's degree in administration of justice two years ago with the goal of becoming a sergeant, said his friend, Modesto police Detective Ra Pouv.

"Ronil and I are both immigrants to a country we truly love, and we both view serving our country and community through law enforcement as important to who we are," said Pouv, who is from Cambodia. "It is our way of giving back to a country that embraced us and our family."

The Fijian ambassador to the United States, Naivakarurubalavu Solo Mara, said Singh made his mark in his adopted country and called him a "Fiji-born American hero."

Singh's widow, Anamika Singh, was at the funeral but did not address mourners; his 5-month-old son can be heard cooing during the service. A slideshow shown during service featured photos of the smiling officer posing for Christmas photos with his family, hanging out with fellow officers and cuddling Sam, his black Labrador K-9 dog.

On Friday, his 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.

After Saturday's funeral, Singh's body was taken on a procession to its final resting place at Lakewood Memorial Park in the nearby town of Hughson.

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