POMONA, Calif. - It is a scene that is all too familiar for residents of the Coachella Valley. A make shift memorial of flowers, candles and law enforcement badges is growing outside the Pomona Police Department after one of their officers was killed in the line of duty Friday night. A second officer was shot and remains hospitalized.
On Saturday afternoon, a group of Palm Springs Police Officers traveled to the site to pay their respects to fallen Officer Gregory Casillas, 30 of Upland, and his his wounded comrade. It was a gesture returned after dozens of law enforcement agencies offered their support at a memorial outside the Palm Springs department less than two years before.
Veteran officer Jose 'Gil' Vega and rookie Lesley Zerebny were shot through a doorway on Oct. 8, 2016, after they responded to a domestic disturbance call. A third officer was wounded, but survived.
The Pomona shootings have specifically struck a cord with the local community after details emerged that were eerily similar to the Palm Springs Incident- a rookie officer was killed after being shot through the doorway while trying to make contact with a suspect. A long-term stand-off ensued.
Officials in the Inland Empire, about an hour and a half from Palm Springs, said Casillas had been with the department since 2014, though he was only sworn in as a Pomona police officer in September of 2017, and was just about to finish field training. He leaves behind a wife and two young children.
"Greg is a hero. A man to look up to. He left his family at home to protect yours, and his ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten,'' Pomona Police Chief Michael Olivieri said. "Our Pomona police officers were out doing what they always do, putting themselves in harm's way to protect Pomona, a
community that we love.''
The wounded officer underwent surgery and was in stable condition and expected to survive. Officials didn't identify that officer, but McDonnell said he was shot in the face when he attempted to aid Casillas.
The shooting was reported at 9:10 p.m. Friday in the 1400 block of South Palomares Street, said Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which is assisting Pomona police in the investigation.
The confrontation began when Pomona police officers attempted to stop the suspect for alleged reckless driving. A pursuit ensued, which ended when the suspect's vehicle crashed into a parked car and he fled on foot, according to Capt. Chris Bergner of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
"The suspect ran into an apartment complex where officers gave chase,'' Bergner said. ``As he barricaded himself in a bedroom, officers attempted to contact him and he began firing through the door, striking two officers.''
"It is with a heavy heart that I must report that one officer did not survive,'' Olivieri announced early Saturday morning on Twitter.
At 1:10 p.m., Olivieri tweeted: ``I am at the Command Post, as soon as this barricade situation comes to an end, I will talk briefly to the media about our fallen officer. I am not going to talk about my officer while the suspect may be watching tv.''
A couple hours later, McDonnell announced the arrest. The apartment building had been evacuated as a SWAT team maintained a watch all night and all morning long.
Earlier Saturday, police brought Casillas' body to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office in a solemn procession of squad cars as many officers lined the streets.