By Kathy Chouteau
Hundreds of mourners came to pay their respects to murdered Federal Protective Service Officer David Patrick Underwood at a memorial service at his high school alma mater on Friday—also Juneteenth.
Among the attendees of the service at Pinole Valley High School’s theater were loved ones, spiritual and political leaders, representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, and numerous police officers, including from the Oakland Police Department. The memorial was followed by a burial at Rolling Hills Memorial Park in Richmond.
The Pinole resident was assassinated, and his partner injured, in a shooting May 29 as they were guarding the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland during a demonstration over the killing of George Floyd. At his memorial, his sister expressed hope that her well-loved brother’s tragic death will serve to mend wounds in a divided nation.
“We will, we must, as individuals and as a society, overcome discrimination, bias, hatred, and violence of any kind– whether it be against African-Americans or against people who wear the uniform of a peace officer, as our brother did, to protect and serve and to ensure the safety of every citizen,” Angela Underwood Jacobs said.
Pastor Alvin A. Bernstine of Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church both presided over the memorial service and provided a moving eulogy of Underwood toward its conclusion. A procession of family members and pallbearers (Underwood’s coworkers), spirited musical selections, readings of Bible verse, presentations of various honors and speakers during the service helped celebrate a man who meant a lot to many.
“I was very proud to see what kind of man he became…he was a very considerate, respectful man,” said Laurie Walsh, a longtime friend and neighbor.
Walsh remembers Underwood as a great baseball player, cook and car enthusiast and used to bring his gumbo over to share with her mother across the street.
Jacobs expressed gratitude to all those who gathered and those across the country and around the globe “for their love kindness and prayers.” People from as far away as Africa, Great Britain and the Vatican had reached out with their sympathy, love, hope and their prayers for peace and justice, Jacobs said.
“Our brother Patrick was secure and confidant and never arrogant,” his sister said. “He stood tall, strong, stoic, reaching for the sky… He believed that the key to living life is to treat people with dignity, humility and grace.”
Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, spoke to Underwood’s courage and sacrifice.
“It’s easy to want to live in a peaceful world; it takes a special few models to allow us to do so,” Wolf said. “A large majority of American citizens are able to take peace for granted because of the courage demonstrated by public servants like Pat. He was one of the brave, those whose daily sacrifices became the ultimate sacrifice.”
He was dedicated to his family, his job, and his community. Antwon Cloird and Rodney Alamo Brown, co-founders of charitable Richmond organization Soulful Softball Sunday, described him as an authentic person who had contributed to their organization.
Two suspects have been arrested in connection with Underwood’s case, including suspected shooter and active-duty U.S. Air Force Sergeant Steven Carrillo, and suspected driver and accomplice Robert Justice. According to the FBI, the suspects did not come to Oakland to protest, but rather to kill law enforcement officers. Evidence suggests the men may have been followers of a far-right, extremist Boogaloo Movement that is preparing for a violent uprising or second Civil War, authorities said.
Jacobs hopes her brother’s murder will help bring the nation together rather than tear it apart.
“…Help us honor Pat and create a legacy for him and for our society. We ask you to join us and use your own personal powers of understanding, hope, inclusion, and love, to ensure that there will someday truly be liberty and justice for all,” she said. “I hope and trust that this righteous path will lead to the end of discrimination against any person of color or anyone who wears a badge.”