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Thousands of officers gather to honor slain Chicago cop at his funeral

Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez's wife, Crystal Garcia (center), surrounded by family and supporters, watches as pallbearers place his casket into the hearse after the funeral at Chapel of St. Joseph at Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Monday afternoon, Nov. 26, 2018. Jimenez was killed by a gunman at Mercy Hospital on Nov. 19. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Parked police vehicles stretched into the horizon on the two streets leading to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in north suburban Des Plaines Monday afternoon.

The hearse carrying the body of Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez, and the limousine carrying his wife and three kids, drove slowly past, under an American flag hoisted by the ladders of two firetrucks.

Jimenez, 28, was killed while responding to a shooting at Mercy Hospital last Monday.

A color guard, bagpipers and saluting officers greeted Jimenez’s casket, which was draped in a Chicago flag.

A Chicago police spokesperson said more than 3,000 police officers attended the funeral Monday.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson all offered remarks during a funeral mass.

Perhaps the most touching words came from Officer Rafael Villegas, who met Jimenez in February 2017 at the police academy.

“There hasn’t been a day or a moment where I haven’t wished I was there with him that Monday afternoon, regardless of the outcome, I just wanted to be there,” he said.

“Taking this job was no easy decision because he and I knew that it could have possibly meant going through a roller coaster of peace and destruction,” he said.

“He was one true friend … I love you, brother,” Villegas said, looking skyward before descending the altar of the Catholic church and resting his forehead on Jimenez’s casket for several moments before kissing it.

Video by Ashlee Rezin | Thousands of officers attend the funeral for Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez at Chapel of St. Jose

Jimenez was in a squad car on a mundane assignment to deliver mail when he saw that fellow cops were speeding toward Mercy Hospital.

He decided to back them up and was fatally shot by a gunman who, moments earlier, had killed his ex-fiancee, emergency room doctor Tamara O’Neal, 38, before going on a shooting rampage.

Pharmacy resident Dayna Less, 24, was also fatally shot as she stepped off an elevator. The gunman, Juan Lopez, was killed when police shot him and he shot himself in the head.

At Jimenez’s funeral, hundreds of uniformed local, state and federal law enforcement officers filled two overflow rooms that were outfitted with large projection screens carrying a live feed of the service. All to honor Jimenez.

“Quite simply, he was a hero,” Supt. Johnson said.

“There is absolutely no doubt that if it wasn’t for Officer Jimenez and the brave men and women who ran alongside him that day, countless numbers of additional lives would have been lost or affected,” Johnson said.

“You will forever be a part of the Chicago police family and we will always be there for whatever you all might need, from birthdays to graduations, to the watchful presence of a squad car that’s only a phone call away,” he said before looking upward and addressing Jimenez.

“I know you’re watching. Many Chicagoans were saved because of you; thank you so much for your dedication, commitment and sacrifice. So on behalf of a heartbroken city and police department, Sam, may you rest in peace.”

Jimenez grew up in Logan Square and lived on the Northwest Side. The youngest of nine siblings, his parents were from Puerto Rico.

“He selflessly and courageously ran towards danger. He sacrificed his safety for the safety of others,” Mayor Emanuel said.

He was remembered as a particularly compassionate co-worker and cop.

Gov. Rauner, after offering a prayer, addressed Jimenez’s family.

“What we can do is to pledge to you to always remember the life, the service, the dedication, the sacrifice of Sam Jimenez” he said. “We will never let his memory die.”