A sea of law enforcement officers and media cameras joined elected officials, including the mayors of three cities, to console family members during a solemn and moving tribute to Richmond police Officer Augustine “Gus” Vegas at Richmond Memorial Auditorium on Friday.
The packed funeral was a powerful statement on Vegas’ personality, as he was known as a genuinely kind person who was compassionate and dedicated to his work and family, according to his loved ones and colleagues.
Interim Police Chief Allywn Brown said Vegas, a 15-year veteran of the department, was a natural when it came to carrying out the community-policing strategies that have been credited with helping the Richmond Police Department vastly reduce its crime rate in recent years.
“He took a real peace-making approach,” Brown said. “He emphasized mercy and compassion.”
The Richmond community lost a “light,” the chief said, on that dark day on Feb. 11, when Vegas was shot and killed while off-duty in his Vallejo home. He was allegedly killed by 30-year-old Robert Vega, the father of Vegas’ 6-year-old grandson. Vega appeared in court this week but did not enter a plea.
All week, with nearly every story about the beloved Vegas’ past surfacing in conversations among his friends and loved ones, the terms “kind, caring, dedicated to his job and hard-working” have emerged as themes, Brown said.
Mayor Tom Butt, one of the first to speak at Friday’s public funeral, emphasized the need to continue the community-policing strategies Vegas had exemplified. “It is all the more important” to encourage officers to form bonds with the people they police, as Vegas had mastered, Butt said.
The Richmond mayor was joined by fellow elected officials Vallejo Mayor Osbey Davis, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia and several Richmond City Councilmembers.
During his career, Vegas worked assignments including property crimes, homicide and as a patrol officer. At the time of his death, he was working in the regulatory unit.
Vegas was not only known as a kind and compassionate person at work, but also at home. He had 10 children and 20 grandchildren and was known in the Richmond and Vallejo communities for supporting at-risk youth. He and his wife, Sandra, founded and ran the nonprofit Foster Greatness and took in a lot of foster kids.
One of his sons, Enrico “Rico” Maldonado, struggled through tears Friday to talk about what his father meant to him. When he was younger, he recalled his father’s unwavering support when he was repeatedly cut during football tryouts.
He added, “And never once did he call me a stepson.”
A GoFundMe account has been set to the help the Vegas family. For more information, click here. The Richmond Police Officers’ Association has created an account at Mechanics Bank toward helping the Vegas family: Mechanics Bank, Routing number: 121102036, Account number: 041305213, Richmond POA in memory of Gus Vegas
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