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Colleagues and Family Mourn Deputy Shot in Line of Duty

More than 1,000 attend the Diamond Bar memorial service for Michael Arruda.

June 22, 2004|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

With tears and trembling lips, Sheriff's Sgt. Lidia Silva eulogized her slain colleague and fiance Monday in Diamond Bar as the love of her life who sought to avoid conflict.

More than 1,000 law enforcement officers from throughout the state attended the memorial service at Calvary Chapel for Deputy Michael R. Arruda, who died last week after being accidentally shot June 9 by a fellow deputy during a confrontation with a man armed with a pellet gun. The man, Paul Smith, 51, of Whittier, was killed.

Silva recalled that Arruda phoned just before the incident to tell her he loved her.

"He will be our guardian angel," said Silva, who is 7 1/2 months pregnant with Arruda's child. "He told us he would always protect us."

Their unborn daughter, whom they planned to name Savannah, knew her father, Silva said, "because every time he talked she'd start kicking."

Emotional reminders of Arruda's 35 years filled the chapel as several other colleagues addressed the sea of green-and-tan uniforms.

The slain deputy's parents, Joyce and Ricardo Arruda, and 11-year-old son from his first marriage, Michael Jr., sat in the first row. Several deputies wept at the sight of Arruda's flag-draped casket.

Arruda was shot about 10 p.m. June 9 when four deputies confronted Smith at a Motel 6 in Hacienda Heights after reports that he had threatened people with a gun.

As Smith fired his pellet gun, which resembled a .40-caliber pistol, at deputies, Arruda moved for cover and was hit in the neck, detectives said. Smith was killed in the confrontation; Arruda died six days later.

"Michael Arruda engaged in combat; he is a hero. He was a hero long before his death," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca told mourners, who included four county supervisors, L.A. Police Chief William J. Bratton and Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.

"He is in the heart of everyone in the department who worked with him," said Baca, noting that Arruda was the fifth deputy to be killed on his watch as sheriff. Baca was elected in November 1998.

Baca and colleagues described Arruda as a role model, known for his calm, maturity and dedication.

Born in Bedford, N.H., Arruda joined the department in 1991 after four years in the Navy. "He was the first to volunteer. No job was too big and no responsibility too small," Baca said.

That was the case the night of the shooting. Assigned elsewhere, Arruda volunteered to go to the motel, Baca said.

Deputy Joey Mesa told mourners that although many of them remembered Arruda as the "ripped" athlete with the Boston accent and spandex shorts -- often the target of jokes -- Mesa over the years learned something else. "I found out his biggest muscle was his heart," said Mesa, tears rolling down his cheeks.

Arruda's casket was escorted by hundreds of police cruisers from across the region to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Covina Hills for burial.

"I know you are not going to show up on Mondays," lamented Arruda's close friend, Deputy Marcus Ortiz, in front of mourners. "But your spirit will sit next to me in that car."

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