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‘He was always here for us.’ Thousands turn out to honor fallen Newman police corporal

More than 2,000 people turned out on a cold winter morning in Newman to honor a police corporal who was shot to death last week. And evening brought several hundred more to a Modesto funeral home.

Cpl. Ronil Singh was gunned down during a traffic stop early in the morning on Dec. 26. After being flagged down by a resident, Singh had stopped a suspected drunk driver at Merced Street and Eucalyptus Avenue. After a 55-hour manhunt, Paulo Virgen Mendoza was arrested in Kern County; seven other people face charges of helping Mendoza try to escape.

Singh’s memorial service is Saturday at CrossPoint Community Church in Modesto at 1301 12th St. It starts at 10 a.m. After that, Singh’s body will be taken via a long procession by way of 11th Street and eventually Yosemite Boulevard to its final resting place at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson at 900 Santa Fe Ave.

Public viewings were held in Newman and Modesto on Friday.

A procession began at Salas Brothers Funeral Chapel in Modesto shortly after 7:30 a.m. and headed down Carpenter and Crows Landing roads to Newman, where visitation was held at the West Side Theatre. A crowd estimated at up to 2,500 people lined the streets, many people holding American flags and signs.

Singh, a Modesto resident, had worked in Newman for seven years.

Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson, in an interview outside the theater, said Singh was his first hire.

Richardson said the outpouring of support and emails from around the world has been tremendous.

That included President Donald Trump, who reached out by telephone to Richardson, as well as Singh’s widow, Anamika, and Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this about the call: “This afternoon, President Trump spoke with the family and law enforcement colleagues of fallen Newman, California, police officer Ronald (sic) ‘Ron’ Singh. The President praised Officer Singh’s service to his fellow citizens, offered condolences, and commended law enforcement’s rapid investigation, response, and apprehension of the suspect.”

Trump also spoke about Singh, referring to him as “a wonderful young police officer,” during remarks about border security Friday in the White House rose garden.

“...he was shot, viciously shot, for simply stopping a person who came over the border illegally,” Trump said in part.

Back in Newman, 29-year resident Pat Rios said that Singh always wore a smile and never seemed in a foul mood.

She said she loved that law enforcement officers from Turlock, Modesto and elsewhere in Stanislaus County and as far as New York came out to show their support for the corporal.

“It’s sad but it’s beautiful.”

Husband and wife Randy and Kathy Rocha turned out with their family to pay their respects.

Randy Rocha said he was impressed with how much the corporal was committed to his country, to his community and to his family.

“He had a passion inside of him for everybody and everything he did.“

Kathy Rocha said, “I wish now that I knew more about him, now that I’ve heard so many stories about how hard he worked to be a police officer. I never realized how much work he put in to become a police officer. “

Another Newman resident, Bernice Arnett, knew Singh through her work as an employee of the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District. She said: “There’s no other choice but to be out here this morning. He was always here for us. “

The tributes continued when Singh’s body returned to Salas for a viewing that started in the late afternoon. More than 200 people lined the sidewalk outside the Scenic Boulevard funeral home as of 5:30 p.m., many of them fellow Indian-Americans.

“We are so proud as a small ethnic community that he achieved something,” said Anand Shankar, a family friend from Fremont.

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Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.
John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.