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Officer Remembered as "Hero"

By Lookout Staff

June 3 -- More than 1,000 mourners turned out for a solemn funeral service Thursday morning for Ricardo "Rick" Crocker, who was remembered as an "American hero" who served Santa Monica as a police officer and died last week serving his country as a marine in Iraq.

The funeral for the 39-year-old Marine Corps Reserve Major at St. Monica's Catholic Church drew fellow marines and law enforcement officers from more than a dozen agencies, four police chiefs, top City officials and the residents Crocker served for 10 years.

Crocker -- who was killed May 27 in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in a vast desert region of Iraq -- was given a military funeral. Under an overcast sky, Crocker's flag-draped casket was carried out of the church and given a 21-gun salute.

The flag was then slowly folded and given to his mother, who was surrounded by the silent overflow crowd.

Mgsr. Lloyd Torgerson called Crocker "an American hero who didn't live or die in vain because of the example he set. He was a prophet, Torgerson said, not because he could see the future, but because he could see the present so clearly.

"His life was an example to all of us," Torgerson said. "Rick is here. He rejoices with us today. If that sounds silly, I don't know what else to say to you."

Lt. Col. William Costantini, who commanded 1,300 marines in Western Iraq, noted that Crocker was only one of six marines who participated in the reconstruction effort, the most important job undertaken by the armed forces.

"Some men are willing to give the best of our nation in order to fulfill a great need," Costantini said. "Rick was such a man."

Crocker held the rank of Captain in the U.S. Marines when he was hired by the police department in July 1995 and has since been promoted to the rank of Major.

Crocker's last assignment in Santa Monica was with the Police Activities League, where he helped procure computers for a program to help prepare students for their college entrance exams.

“This is going to be a difficult one for me,” Police Chief James T. Butts, Jr., told mourners. “If I falter, it is not due to a lack of courage, but out of an abundance of love I feel for Rick.”

Butts recalled his first meeting with Crocker in January 1995. He was so impressed with the candidate that he held a vacancy in the department open until Crocker returned from his marine duties, Butts said.

“Rick was never bogged down with the question, ‘Why?’” Butts said. “For him, it was always, ‘Why not?’”

Crocker, who was completing a master's degree from Pepperdine University in English and journalism emailed dispatches from Iraq to his fellow officers in Santa Monica. Butts teared up when he read the most recent dispatch dated May 7.

“It’s tough on everybody, feeling numb, tired,” Butts quoted Crocker as writing. “Have a mission in a few days. Not much else to say.”

Crocker’s body will be flown for burial at the National Cemetery in Puerto Rico, where he will be given a full military ceremony, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Fabrega. The funeral will be attended by Butts, several police commanders and officers, he said.

Crocker, who was single and had no children, is survived by his mother Jeanette, father Curtis, sisters Marisa and Maria and brother Carlos. Another sister, Linda, died 11 years ago.

In lieu of flowers, Crocker’s family is requesting that donations be made to the Santa Monica Police Activities League. Checks should be made out to Santa Monica PAL and sent care of the Santa Monica Police Department, 333 W. Olympic Drive, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

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