Officer Cuauhtemoc Estrada's family announces funeral plans | Off-duty deputy killed in Bellwood

December 24, 2013 (BELLWOOD, Ill.)

A wake will be held Friday, December 27, 2013 at Russo's Chapel located at 4500 Roosevelt Road, Hillside, Illinois from 3:00pm-9:00pm.

A service will be held Saturday, December 28, 2013 at Holy Name Cathedral located at 735 N. State Street, Chicago, Illinois from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.

An interment will be held Saturday, December 28, 2013 at Queen of Heaven Cemetery located at 1400 S. Wolf Road, Hillside, Illinois. Two men charged in the death of an off-duty Cook County sheriff's officer faced a judge for the first time Monday.

His family said in a statement Tuesday: "We want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support our family has received. Cuauhtemoc died as he lived every single day – protecting and supporting his family. We always knew he was a hero, and if there's a silver lining to this tragedy, it's that now, so does the whole world.

Family always came first for Cuauhtemoc, but a close second was his service to the people of Cook County and to our Nation. He loved his job - and his colleagues in the Electronic Monitoring Unit were a second family to him. Their support over the past three days has been unwavering, and for that we are eternally grateful.

We are thankful to the Cook County Sheriff's Office, the Bellwood PD and Cook County State's Attorney's Office for working around-the-clock to bring the alleged perpetrators into custody. It brings us comfort to know that these men will no longer have the capacity to devastate other families as they have devastated ours.

As funeral services for Cuauhtemoc approach, we ask for privacy in this most difficult time."

Cuauhtemoc Estrada, 50, was killed outside a family holiday party Friday night in west suburban Bellwood.

His family said around 7:30 p.m., Estrada saw two people trying to rob his daughter and her boyfriend at gunpoint while they were carrying food from a car. As Officer Estrada pulled out his gun to stop the robbers, he was shot in the chest. He died at the hospital.

Charges were filed early Monday against two suspects. Brandon Jackson and Gage Thornton, both 22, now face numerous counts, including first-degree murder charges. Police say they have good evidence against the two Bellwood men, but authorities would not share many details Monday. Prosecutors say Jackson was wearing a red hoodie and a ski mask at the time of the attack. Thornton allegedly wore a red jacket with blue sleeves.

Bellwood police say footprints in the snow led officers back to Jackson's house. When the men were arrested -- Jackson, who works at a moving company, was found with a black ski mask in the back pocket of his jeans. Police also found the distinctive jacket that Thornton, who works at a car wash, was allegedly wearing during the robbery. Detectives also say they recovered an empty gun box with cartridges missing.

Prosecutors say Jackson was the shooter and that the men said their intention was to rob someone that night. A judge denied bond for both men as they appeared in court Monday. Authorities said the suspects would be held in protective custody until their trial.

According to police, a surveillance camera at the crime scene was the key to unlocking the case. Jackson and Thornton were arrested six hours after they allegedly committed the crime. Police say both men are familiar with them due to their prior criminal records for offenses like shoplifting and breaking and entering.

"It's a very sad day. My heart goes out the Estrada family. It was a horrific crime and another example of the gun violence that we see way too often in Cook County," said State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Police say they have not recovered the gun used in the crime.

Estrada worked as an investigator for Cook County for more than two decades and was a former Marine. At the time of the shooting, he was hosting a family Christmas party at the VFW hall because he was scheduled to work on Christmas.

Family, friends and colleagues gathered for a vigil in his honor Sunday night as the suspects were being questioned, saying Estrada left a mark on so many people.

He was a father of four, grandfather of three, and will not be forgotten, his family promises.

"He was a great person," said daughter Desirae Estrada. "He was the best dad, but not only the best dad, he was my best friend. He taught me how to be brave, be strong and always succeed in life."

"He was always just saying 'be cool, be cool,'" niece Rocio Torres said. "That was his phrase. Anyone that knows him knows that's what he always said. We just always remember him for his quotes."

Estrada was killed just days before his mother's birthday.

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