The senseless violence we only see elsewhere hit home in the early-morning hours of Dec. 26.
As most of us were resting comfortably and safely in bed a young Newman police officer, one who had left his wife and infant son a few hours earlier on Christmas night to begin his shift, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with a driver he had pulled over for possible DUI.
A cell phone chime shortly after 6 a.m. delivered the gut-wrenching message that Newman Police Department Cpl. Ronil Singh had lost his life in the line of duty five hours earlier.
In the course of that time, his beloved wife had been delivered the news that every police officer’s spouse dreads.....that her husband was not coming home, that the adventures he had planned for their lives together would never be fulfilled, that Ronil Singh would never see his son grow up, take him fishing, play catch, do all the things that fathers and sons do......that life as those who loved Ronil Singh had forever changed.
In that time, officers with a reeling Newman Police Department learned that one of their own had made the ultimate sacrifice.
In that time, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department had launched an unrelenting manhunt which two days later brought to justice the suspect accused of gunning down a well-known and well-liked officer whose killing sent shock waves throughout the community.
In Newman, residents woke that morning to the jarring news that a world in which they thought only others lived had invaded their own: One in which a cop could be callously gunned down in cold blood and left to die.
While we always knew that such a tragedy was something that could happen, it seemed more theoretical than actually possible.
As an emotional Police Chief Randy Richardson stated in an initial press conference, “this isn’t supposed to happen here.”
But it did.
And now we can never again say things like that do not happen here.
Because it did.
There were so many different aspects to what transpired in Newman last week.....and could just as easily have happened four miles down the road in Gustine, a community which also very much felt the loss as well.
Ronil Singh was a personable, professional officer who always wore an infectious smile and was willing to lend an ear as well as a helping hand whenever possible.
I vividly recall the passion for law enforcement and helping the community that he expressed during an interview several years ago. It ran deep, and was genuine.
On a personal level I did not know Cpl. Singh, but his Facebook page reflected a deep love for his family and for life itself.
He died doing what he loved.
His killing drew a crushing media presence and national coverage.
The coverage focused on the police officer, family man and person he was, and the devastating impact his murder has had on family, department and community.
The tragedy also, of course, rekindled the debate over immigration and sanctuary status.
Ronil Singh was a shining example of immigration at its finest.....coming to the United States from his native Fiji and working tirelessly toward his dream of becoming a police officer. He came, he bettered himself and he bettered his community and nation in the process. Isn’t that the American Dream?
His accused killer is in the country illegally, has two DUI arrests and claims gang affiliation. Because of sanctuary restrictions, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson stressed, authorities were previously unable to report him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE.
Nobody wants to see the death of our officer politicized.....but I also agree with those who believe that serious conversations must be had, because what we’re doing now simply is not working and does not serve the safety of our communities.
In some cases, the outcome is tragic.
The community’s response to the tragedy was nothing short of remarkable, an outpouring of support which large cities would never see.
Amid the sorrow and anger, the community also began the healing process.
The downtown Newman plaza was a sea of people attending a vigil for Cpl. Singh Friday evening, and the call that went out was one for the community to come together - and stay together.
The beautiful vigil was an opportunity not only to remember a fallen officer but to embrace one another.
And it served as a reminder that, in the battle of good versus evil, the true strength rests with the good.