An overflow crowd of family, friends, community members and law enforcement officials from as far away as Chicago and Boston paid their final respects to fallen Nogales Police Officer Jesus “Chuy” Cordova during funeral services Saturday at Nogales High School.
The solemn gathering began with a mass in the NHS auditorium that was filled with music and tearful eulogies. With more than 1,000 people on hand, the school gymnasium was used as an overflow room, where mourners listened to an audio feed of the service, led by Bishop Edward Weisenburger of the Catholic Diocese of Tucson and local priests.
During her eulogy, Alyssa Cordova, the fallen lawman’s wife, read “The Final Inspection,” a poem about a police officer being welcomed to heaven.
“Rest easy baby, I’ll see you in heaven,” she finished, breaking down in tears as she stood surrounded by flowers, some arranged in the shape of a cross, and a photograph of her husband in uniform.
Following the mass, Cordova’s flag-draped coffin was taken to the school courtyard, where he was given law enforcement ceremonial honors including the presentation of a riderless horse, helicopters flying overhead and an emotional end-of-watch call.
Cordova, 44, was shot and killed by a carjacking suspect on the afternoon of April 27. He leaves behind his wife Alyssa, who is five months pregnant, and their three children: 8-year-old Sophia, 2-year-old Nicolas and 1-year-old Victoria.
Speaking to the crowd in the auditorium, NPD Chief Roy Bermudez called Cordova a “hero who made the ultimate sacrifice” by facing a “madman” who could have harmed civilians at the market and a nearby residential neighborhood.
Bermudez said that since Cordova died, people have randomly been approaching him to tell stories of their interactions with the officer, and how he was respectful and went out of his way to help them.
The chief then addressed Cordova’s family, telling his three children and unborn son that their father was a “man of his word,” and his mother Francisca “Pakita” Salazar that she raised a man of honor and integrity.
He told NPD officers to “let (Cordova’s) life, rather than his death, unite us and inspire us to serve.”
Isabel Gonzalez and Olivia Martinez, Cordova’s cousins who describe themselves as having been like sisters to him, said Cordova will remain in their hearts.
“Good and noble people never die, they always remain here deep inside our hearts,” Martinez said.
“I’m going to miss your stories, your ideas and more than anything, your teasing,” Gonzalez said.
Following the mass, NPD officers, walking beneath flags hoisted by law enforcement officials from across Arizona, moved Cordova’s casket from the auditorium to the courtyard with his family following close behind.
Officers played “Taps” on the bugle and fired rifles before bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” as officials from different public safety departments slowly folded the U.S. flag covering Cordova’s casket into a triangle. Chief Bermudez then presented the flag to Cordova’s wife, who later handed it off to his mother.
Perhaps the most emotional moment came during the end-of-watch call, when a trooper with the Department of Public Safety – which covered for NPD during the funeral – called for Cordova over the police radio, but to no response.
“We thank you for your dedication, loyalty and service to the citizens of Nogales, Ariz. and the United States,” the trooper said as Cordova’s family and fellow NPD officers broke down in tears. “Your sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
A white hearse carrying Cordova’s remains then drove away to a private graveside service.