CPD graduation takes place just days after Chicago police officer killed

Officer Andres Vasquez Lasso was shot, killed last week in Gage Park

Tuesday, March 7, 2023
CPD graduation eclipsed by grief for officer killed
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The police academy graduation ceremony was eclipsed by a feeling of grief following the death of Officer Andres Vasquez Lasso.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Just days after losing one of their own, the Chicago Police Department ushered in another 275 officers to the force, preparing to put their life on the line, just as Officer Andres Vazquez Lasso did.

They gathered Monday night for a prayer vigil.

But the CPD graduation ceremony began at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, and a moment of silence was held for Vasquez Lasso.

"We will keep all of those who knew and loved him and worked with Officer Vasquez in our prayers. We will never forget his service or his sacrifice because he and his work live on through us," said First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter.

The 32-year-old officer was shot and killed last week while responding to a domestic violence call in Gage Park.

The police academy graduation ceremony at Navy Pier on Tuesday was eclipsed by a feeling of grief.

"Officer Vasquez Lasso did what we ask all of our officers to do. He responded to danger in order to protect a life and protect our city, and unfortunately for him and his family and our city, he paid the ultimate price," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

There were 275 graduates from the Chicago Police Academy. Almost 140 department members also received promotions Tuesday.

There were mixed emotions, as hundreds of officers were sworn in for the first time. It was a somber ceremony, but there were a lot of proud families there.

One mom at the ceremony said her daughter, 28-year-old Alexis Jara, graduated.

Jara comes from a family of law enforcement. Her mother said she's naturally worried about her daughter, but is proud of her sacrifice and achievement.

"I'm concerned that she puts herself in the line of danger every single day that she puts on her uniform, but, again, I trust in her training, I trust in God, and I've gotta be her mom to support her and let her know that we all have her back," Stella Gayton said.

To bring comfort to those in the 8th Police District, where Vasquez Lasso worked, eight local restaurants donated food this afternoon.

"We are giving lunch in memory of this fallen officer to all of his colleagues," said Steven Davis with Angels on Earth.

Portillo's, Fox's Pizza Den, Danny's Deli, the Cheesecake Factory, JJ's Fish & Chicken, Popeye's, Simply Good Cookin' and Joey's Pizzeria fed those who protect them every day.

"We are very happy to give this meal to the first responders, especially in a time like this," said Portillo's Field Marketing Coordinator Reid O'Neil.

They gave their condolences to his family in blue, never forgetting the fallen hero.

"We want to show the officers that the general public appreciates what they do. We know the job is hard, and the deal is with these police officers, there's never a dry eye in the building when they realize someone is giving from their heart," Davis said.

Loved ones have been preparing to lay Vasquez Lasso to rest this Thursday. His funeral will be held at 10 a.m. at Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel at Saint Rita High School.

On Monday night, he was honored in a special prayer service at a church on the Southwest Side. And also on Monday, Sen. Dick Durbin spoke about the fallen officer on the Senate floor.

"Officer Vasquez Lasso was an immigrant to this country. He came here from Colombia, and became a citizen and became a police officer. He gave his life for the people who live in this country," Durbin said.

The widow of Officer Vasquez Lasso shared a touching tribute to her late husband on social media, saying "It will never be goodbye, but see you later to my favorite person, my best friend, my travel and adventure partner who will always be in my heart."

The tragedy is a reminder of the danger officers face in the line of duty.

CPD Superintendent David Brown was not at the ceremony.

Last week, he announced his plans to retire on March 16. Lightfoot thanked Brown for his service in her remarks Tuesday.

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