CHICAGO (WLS) -- Family, friends and colleagues arrived to pay their respects to fallen Chicago police officer John Rivera at Elmwood Chapel on Thursday.
Rivera, a 23-year-old CPD officer in the 6th district, was gunned down in River North early Saturday while off duty. He was sitting in a car in River North with three friends, one of whom was also wounded. Rivera shielded his girlfriend from the gunfire, police said.
When Rivera was fatally shot, the city lost an officer. But many residents on the southeast side also lost a kid from the neighborhood.
Eva Alvarez knew Rivera as a boy growing up in Hegewish.
"He could've been my own son, you know. He could've been any one of our kids," Alvarez said. "He used to come into the bank with his grandmother, and I kind of saw him grow up, and I know he always wanted to be an officer."
Alvarez was among a steady stream of mourners attending Officer Rivera's visitation at Elmwood Chapel in the city's East Side neighborhood.
"I had to be here. I had to come with my son, be here, and pray over him, for him, and to pray for his family," said Olga Salas, who lives steps from the site of the fatal shooting.
Salas remembers being awakened by gunfire Saturday morning.
"My family and I looked out the window, and we saw him, and we immediately started to pray for him," she said. "I knew that in that moment, he could not be alone, that he needed prayer."
Two men, Menelik Jackson and Jovan Battle, have been charged in the shooting, and police are still searching for a third man believed to be involved.
Investigators said Rivera may have been mistaken for someone in another group that had fought with the suspects hours earlier, or he may have been targeted because he's Hispanic. Police said hate crime charges could be filed.
Rivera attended Mount Carmel High School before graduating from Brother Rice.
His CPD colleagues said he was serious about policing but also had a wonderful sense of humor and was just fun to be around. Rivera had been with the department for a little less than two years.
"It hurt because he was such a young guy just starting to live. He had his whole life ahead of him," Alvarez said.
"My daughter and I just drive, and we say we can't believe how wonderful the community has come together," said Karrie Merola, whose daughter attended grade school with Rivera. "It's a senseless tragedy. It should have never happened."
Rivera's funeral will be held Friday morning at Church of Annunciata.
Visitation held for CPD cop killed in off duty shooting