Pay­ing trib­ute to the life of an ‘Amer­i­can hero’

Merced Sun-Star - - Los Banos Enterprise - Bee staff writer Kevin Valine con­trib­uted to this re­port. Mar­i­jke Row­land: 209-578-2284, @mar­i­jkerow­land

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.”

ANDY AL­FARO aal­[email protected]­bee.com

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.

STANIS­LAUS COUNTY SO

New­man Po­lice Cpl. Ronil Singh was killed Dec. 26 dur­ing a traf­fic stop at Merced Street and Eu­ca­lyp­tus Av­enue in New­man.

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