A day after the death of 26-year-old Sacramento Police Officer Tara O'Sullivan, the department held a police academy graduation ceremony where newly-minted officers said her life inspires them to continue to serve.
"Her tragic death, it just gives me more motivation to go out there and protect the community and help save lives one day at a time," graduating officer Berlinda Cato said. "And if that means that I get hurt doing it, then that's a sacrifice I'm willing to take."
O'Sullivan was killed Wednesday evening while escorting a woman to a north Sacramento home to retrieve belongings after a domestic disturbance. Police arrested Adel Sambrano Ramos on charges related to the murder after he surrendered following an eight-hour standoff.
It's the first death of a Sacramento officer in the line of duty in 20 years, and the 17th officer killed in the line of duty in the department's history.
The new officers, their families and current law enforcement gathered at the Memorial Auditorium for the ceremony, and held a moment of silence for O'Sullivan.
Cato said she saw O'Sullivan last week and couldn't believe the news of her death. She was at UC Davis Hospital when O'Sullivan died.
"It was an emotional time for all of us," Cato said. "We were all crying and then we lined the hallway when they brought her out of her room and that was really tough for me."
Graduate Thom Panen was also at the hospital Wednesday and had worked with O'Sullivan during his academy training. He spoke about how he and his fellow graduates shouldn't ignore the danger of their jobs.
"We can't deny the fact that we're scared. This is a scary job," Panen said. "And what we're going to be doing is … it's dangerous. And being able to conquer that, and being able to move past that and push past that, it's probably one of the most important things that we can do as police officers."
Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he had met O'Sullivan many times, and she serves as a great example for the new officers.
"I don't think there's a person on this earth that would say she wasn't a perfect police officer," he said. "She was amazing and just about every way excited to be a police officer excited to come to work."
Hahn said she "chose to stand in the gap between evil."
"There's always going to be a need for somebody to be willing to put themselves in harms way in somebody else's time of need," Hahn said. "It takes special people to do that. It takes special families to support that. It's not for everyone and not everyone can do it. I'm thankful that tonight is proof that we still have people that are willing to do that."
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