Police officers from around the country made the journey to pay their respects to Dallas Officer Rogelio Santander on Tuesday. Among them were Waxahachie Police officers Abe Partington, Danny Knight, Brandon Stephens, Dylan Snyder, and Dustin Koch.
Late last month, multiple media outlets reported that shoplifting suspect Armando Juarez shot Santander, officer Crystal Almeida, and loss prevention officer Scott Painter at a Dallas Home Depot on April 24. Santander succumbed to injuries April 25 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
Officer Brandon Stephens started his career with Dallas Police in 2007 before joining the Waxahachie Police Department almost three years ago. He shared the journey to Rockwall for the service was to provide support to fellow officers. Waxahachie was one of the hundreds of law enforcement agencies that attended Santander’s funeral.
“My heart was breaking for his family. I could see how much of an influence he was for not only the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas community but for his family,” Stephens said. “One of the speakers at the funeral was his high school sports coach. For him to get up there and speak and speak so highly of him, it shows officer Santander‘s character.”
Stephens explained the support for Santander’s family and the department was strong throughout the day and could be felt by people in attendance.
“Any funeral is not easy to attend. The drive from Rockwall back to Dallas to the cemetery was probably 10 miles. The entire way there were people lined up along the side of the freeway showing their support,” Stephens remembered. “There were other agencies out there blocking traffic so that the precession would have a clear shot all the way to the cemetery. The officers out there blocking traffic were outside of their squad cars either rendering a salute or standing at a position of attention showing their support.”
Stephens stated his “heart was breaking” for both of Santander’s blood and law enforcement families.
“There were several officers that got up and spoke at the funeral. They would remain strong through the first couple of minutes of their speech,” Stephens recalled. “Toward the end, you would hear the crack in there voice when they got to a certain point. You could tell that it hit them hard.”
Fellow Waxahachie officer Abe Partington stated the connection that law enforcement officers have with each other is very much like a family.
“Every police officer in the world stands for the same thing. We all go out and fight the same fight and try to accomplish the same goals. We each do the same job day in and day out,” Partington explained. “A lot of times, we are with our law enforcement family more than we are with our own blood family at home. The bond and relationships that form are some of the strongest.”
Partington was humbled to see patches on uniforms from all over the country and beyond.
“We saw officers representing law enforcement agencies from nearly every state and even Canada,” Partington recalled. “The professionalism displayed by all of the agencies was impressive, and it really made me proud to be a police officer.”
Partington noted police officers do the same job no matter the uniform worn because they stand between right and wrong and good and evil.
“We answer the same calls and enforce basically the same laws. We try to keep the peace and maintain order. Officer Santander could have been any of us. Knowing that and understanding that really puts things in perspective,” Partington said. “In the 11 years of being in law enforcement, I have attended five police funerals, one of them being our very own, Waxahachie Police Department’s officer Josh Williams. They never get any easier. However, I hope to attend and represent the Waxahachie Police Department for as many as I can.”
He shared it was very noble that hundreds of people lined the highways and showed their support of not only Santander but for law enforcement as a whole.
A moment in the service that touched Partington was when Santander's girlfriend, Jennifer Rivera, spoke on the values that were the pillars of his life.
“When officer Santander's girlfriend spoke of him, she highlighted his motivational and inspiring character. How he always pushed everyone around him to be a better person and do better for themselves. That, to me, was admirable,” Partington noted. “We should all be encouraging everyone around us to do and be better. To reach our potential.”
Officer Dustin Koch stated he felt horned to represent the department at the service and pay his respects to Santander.
"It was my first police funeral to attend, and it was truly humbling. Whether the officer was local, state, or federal, he or she carried a badge and was there to mourn the loss of a brother," Koch said. "It was truly an eye-opener to see how the police brotherhood comes together in a hard time for someone most have never met. We saw hundreds of different agencies with officers from all over ranging from NYPD to even Canada Police, all in their department dress uniform."
Koch added it’s not a requirement for Waxahachie officers to go to these funerals but it’s something they volunteer to do.
"I personally did not know officer Santander, but I strongly believe being there at his funeral shows our support to his family as well as the rest of the Dallas Police Department," Koch stated. "I hope we as a department are able to represent the Waxahachie Police Department at other funerals."
Stephens, Partington, and Koch remarked they are honored to serve in Waxahachie.
“I entered law enforcement at a young age. I became a Waxahachie Police Explorer when I was 16. I became a police dispatcher when I was 18. And then I became a police officer when I was 21,” Partington remembered. “Law enforcement is something that I've always wanted to do. I grew up in Waxahachie and have a lot invested here in our community. As cliché as it sounds, I became a police officer to fight crime and to help those that cannot help themselves. Being able to do that in my hometown makes it that much more meaningful to me.”
Stephens feels the Waxahachie community has the heart for law enforcement officers and makes those feelings known.
“I believe that we have overwhelming support in Waxahachie,” Stephens said. “When I am on duty and out and about in my community I will hear, 'thank you for your service' and 'thank you for what you do.'”