Paying tribute to the life of an ‘American hero’
Under a steadily weeping sky, Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh was laid to rest Saturday, surrounded by a sea of his beloved blue as law enforcement officers from across the nation and Canada honored his life.
The funeral for Singh, 33, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the early hours of Dec. 26, drew 4,000 people and officers from more than 100 agencies up and down the state, including New York and Massachusetts, and two members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
CrossPoint Community Church overflowed with mourners. The main Worship Hall was standingroom only, reserved for uniformed law enforcement and family. Three additional viewing areas inside the church for the general public were packed, and in Newman a live-stream viewing was held at Orestimba High School.
Those in attendance in Modesto included Fijian Ambassador to the United States Solo Mara, who called Singh a “Fiji-born American hero” as he addressed the crowd. The service celebrated Singh’s life, passion for law enforcement and prankster nature.
Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson said Singh was his first hiring interview as chief. He said Singh had “all the right answers, but he went above and beyond.” Still the meeting wasn’t without a mistake. Richardson said Singh told him that he always wore an American flag to interviews.
“He wanted everyone to know that he was proud to be
an American. And I looked at him and I kind of smiled a little bit and I said, ‘Then why are you wearing the American flag backwards?’ And he got kind of a blank look on his face, and he said, ‘I’m not.’ And I said, ‘You are.’ And he said, ‘But I put it on in the mirror and it looks right.’ And I said, ‘Exactly.’ And he said he has done so many interviews and nobody has ever mentioned it to him,” Richardson said. “And it was at that moment I knew, OK, this kid is going to fit in. He’ll be all right.”
Singh’s brother, Reggie Singh, spoke for the family during the service, recalling their youth growing up on Fiji. He said that as a child, Singh loved to climb trees and fish. But when they got their first television, he started watching “Cops.” That’s when his dream of becoming an American police officer started.
The family immigrated to the United States in 2003, and he worked his way up working various positions at local law enforcement agencies including the Modesto and Turlock police departments and the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.
Then, in 2011, he achieved his dream of becoming a police officer when he was hired by the Newman Police Department. He was promoted to become a K9 officer in 2013 and the rank of corporal in 2016.
Modesto Police Detective Ra Pouv, a close friend of Singh’s, recalled Singh’s excitement when he told him he had been hired by the Newman Police Department.
“Ronil was delighted with his achievement and deeply felt the Newman Police Department and Newman city was where his heart and soul was,” Pouv said. “Ronil and I are both immigrants to a country we truly love. We both view serving our country and communities through law enforcement as important to who we are. It is our way of giving back to a country that has embraced us and our families.”
Stories of Singh’s achievements were interspersed with tales of his good-natured pranks.
They included tricking Pouv into drinking
“orange juice from Fiji” that was actually Save Mart OJ spiked with Fijian moonshine, and blowing the air horn to surprise fellow officers when he passed their houses.
Aside from the speakers’ voices, the quiet hall was interrupted only by laughter at Singh’s jokester antics and the occasional burbling sounds of Singh’s five-month-old son, Arnav, who sat in the front row held by Ronil’s widow, Anamika Chand-Singh.
After the service, a procession featuring hundreds of law enforcement vehicles wound its way from downtown Modesto to Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson. The massive line of cars started with Singh’s casket and included three Storer buses filled with family members and then dozens of his fellow K9 officers from different agencies.
It took more than 45 minutes for all of the lighted patrol cars to depart the church. Despite the rain, groups of supporters lined the streets downtown — some with signs of thanks and other waving Thin Blue Line flags. Blue ribbons were tied all along the procession route, as well.
Singh’s own K9, Sam, stood watch as his casket was loaded into the hearse after the funeral and then again at the graveside service at Lakewood. Following a 21-gun salute, the assembled K9s unleashed a chorus of barks to join in the solemn ceremony.
A large contingent of
Fiji natives attended the service as well, including Reema Bakshi from Half Moon Bay who came with friends and family from across the region. The two Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers who attended also are Fijian.
“It’s overwhelming seeing all these different agencies,” Bakshi said. “It was a beautiful service.”
About 2,000 law enforcement representatives took part. Modesto Police Department spokesman Billy Boyle said he had never seen as large a combined police and public turnout as at the funeral service, and that it spoke to the close relationship local law enforcement has with the community.
Modesto Officer Jeffrey Harmon spoke during the service and again at Lakewood in front of a monument engraved with the names of fallen officers.
“The world still needs peacemakers. We live in an ugly world where darkness threatens the light every day,” Harmon said. “Ronil, we honor you and we want you to know that we will continue on in your memory bringing peace to this world, just as you did to yours.”
Newman police K9 Sam watches as members of the Newman Police Department move the body of fallen Cpl. Ronil Singh at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson on Saturday.
Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh was killed Dec. 26 during a traffic stop at Merced Street and Eucalyptus Avenue in Newman.