Public safety officers throughout the region converged on Los Angeles early Tuesday to celebrate the life of a decorated LAPD motorcycle officer killed by a suspected drug-impaired driver.
Officer Christopher Cortijo, 51, died April 9, four days after his motorcycle was rear-ended by a Chevrolet Blazer while stopped at a traffic light at Lankershim Boulevard and Saticoy Street in Sun Valley.
Wave upon wave of motorcycles -- including one mounted by Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck -- accompanied the flag-draped casket to Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A.
An LAPD unit towed a symbolic Harley-Davidson like the one Cortijo drove, a pair of shiny boots facing backward on the footboards.
Archbishop José Gómez conducted a funeral Mass attended by an estimated 2,500 people.
"We're here to celebrate his life and his service to us all," Gómez said of Cortijo, a 26-year LAPD veteran who rode for Valley Traffic Division. "We pray for his family."
Among the speakers at the memorial was Mayor Eric Garcetti, clearly moved by Cortijo's impact on his colleagues. "On behalf of the city and of the family of LAPD officers, we're here as one family today," he said. "We mourn the great man Christopher Cortijo. I never knew him, but I knew him.
"The men, women who serve here today -- I knew Chris because I see him on their faces. I feel him in their souls. He didn't just see this as a job, he saw it as a mission."
The homily was given by LAPD chaplain Father Frank Hicks, pastor of St. Basil Catholic Church in Mid-Wilshire, with a stream of admirers taking the podium to eulogize the officer.
"If you pause for a minute, you can feel the breaking of 13,000 hearts -- the hearts of the members of the Los Angeles Police Department," Beck said, his voice breaking.
Among the speakers was Cortijo's 10-year-old nephew Jonathan Navarro, who remained precociously composed; his former LAPD partner Bill Tatem, who also had to contain himself; and his adult son Jonathan Cortijo, whose sister, Christina Beal, came up from the pews to comfort her brother.
"Everything he's done for us is more than we could have wished for," Beal said, staring out at the sea of badges and well-wishers. "The joy in each of us over our memories of him is more than we could ever ask for. Thank you for making our dad a hero -- thank you, all."
Qaneak Shaney Cobb, 33, of Pacoima, has pleaded not guilty to one count each of driving under the influence of a drug causing injury and possession of a controlled substance, cocaine.
Cortijo was twice named Officer of the Year, lauded for having arrested upwards of 3,000 DUI suspects in his career.
The memorial service was followed by traditional police honors and a burial at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.
An account benefiting Cortijo's family has been established at the Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union. Checks payable to the Blue Ribbon Trust for Christopher Cortijo can be sent to the Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union, att. Blue Ribbon Christopher Cortijo, Post Office Box 10188, Van Nuys, CA 91410.