It had been 12 hours since he’d lost his son to one of the country’s worst mass police shootings, and Rick Zamarripa still couldn’t understand why.
Dallas police officer Patrick Zamarripa, 32, had survived three tours in Iraq, one of the world’s most dangerous places, his father said Friday. And then this.
“He comes to the United States to protect people here,” Rick said. “And they take his life.”
Rick was watching television Thursday night when news broke that someone had opened fire in downtown Dallas around 9 p.m. after a peaceful protest. He knew that his son had in recent months begun working as a bike officer in the area, an assignment he enjoyed.
“Hey Patrick,” he texted. “Are you okay?”
Rick had asked that question before because he knew Zamarripa’s job was dangerous, and the response usually came quickly: “Yes, dad. I’ll call you back.”
Not this time.
“I didn’t hear nothing,” Rick said.
He contacted Zamarripa’s wife, Kristy Villasenor, whom he believes was at a Texas Rangers game with their 2-year-old daughter, Lyncoln. She knew nothing initially but soon was told they should get to the hospital, he said.
Rick sped east from his home 40 miles outside the city. He was the first family member to arrive and asked an officer about his son.
“He wouldn’t tell me,” Rick said. “He had that look on his face. I knew.”
Patrick Zamarripa’s entire adult life had been devoted to service. He entered the Navy soon after high school and saw combat while working for the military police in Iraq, Rick said. When he got out about five years ago, he joined the Dallas Police Department.
He just liked to help people, his father said.
A friend had recently asked Zamarripa if he was interested in a job with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, his father said. He declined.
“No, I want to stay,” Rick remembered his son saying. “I love doing this.”
Zamarripa’s Facebook and Twitter profiles are rife with salutes to other fallen officers and soldiers: “Rest in Peace,” in honor of two New York cops killed in 2014; a blue stripe across a black image of Texas; a drawing of an eagle with the words “Home of the Free because of the Brave.”
His interests, outside of an avid devotion to the Rangers and Cowboys, were few.
But he adored his daughter, tweeting photos of Lyncoln the day after her birth on Dec. 14, 2013.
“Daddy’s got you,” he wrote. “My new reason for. . . life.”
On Thursday night, Rick said, the family was allowed to see his face briefly through a glass window. Lyncoln called out for her father.
“Da-da,” he heard her cry. “Da-da.”
From the Fort Worth ISD:
“Officer Zamarripa was a 2001 graduate of R.L. Paschal High School, where he played baseball. The 32-year old was born in Fort Worth and served three tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Navy. He was the father of two small children, one of whom is a student at Westcliff Elementary School. His widow, Kristy, is also a Paschal alum. Other family members attended Fort Worth ISD schools, as well.”
“We extend our deepest sympathy to all who knew and loved Patrick Zamarripa,” said Superintendent Kent P. Scribner. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends.”