Shovels in hand, local leaders, volunteers and the family of a slain San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officer gathered in Southcrest Saturday to plant trees – trees that will grow to protect the community that he so dearly loved to serve.
“These trees will help to act as his living legacy,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer at the event dedicated to SDPD Officer Jonathan “JD” De Guzman. “They are our lasting tribute to his service and to his sacrifice for our great city.”
De Guzman’s widow and his two children, as well as SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman, helped plant the first Torrey Pine honoring De Guzman in Southcrest Community Park at 3999 Z St. – one of 17 new drought-tolerant trees that will fill an area that will come to be known as the “Jonathan ‘JD’ De Guzman Grove.”
“When this tree grows – and it will continue to grow for decades upon decades – it’s going to be robust, and it’s going to be tall, and it’s going to help protect the families that come here from the elements, from the hot sun, the rain,” Zimmerman told NBC 7.
“It’s going to provide protection, and that’s exactly what Officer Jonathan ‘JD’ De Guzman did – he went out and protected and served every single day. And he paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the chief of police added.
Zimmerman said the location of the trees – right in the heart of Southcrest – is near the scene of where De Guzman was gunned down while on duty on the night of July 28, 2016. That spot was chosen because he loved serving the community of Southcrest.
“Parks inspire a sense of community – a sense of family. So when families come here, they’re going to be able to have their hopes and dreams here for a better future. And Officer Jonathan ‘JD’ De Guzman gave his life to protect our community,” Zimmerman said.
“JD was a true hero,” Faulconer added before planting the trees. “He made the choice every single day to put the well-being of others before himself.”
De Guzman and his partner, SDPD Officer Wade Irwin, were gunned down on the job while on Acacia Grove Way. Irwin stopped suspect Jesse Michael Gomez, 52, and asked if he lived in the area.
Gomez opened fire at point-blank range at both officers, shooting Irwin in the throat and hitting De Guzman with multiple bullets. The attack happened so quickly, prosecutors said De Guzman never even had a chance to draw his service weapon.
De Guzman was a 16-year veteran of the SDPD, beloved by his colleagues and family. In 2003, the officer survived a stabbing while on duty, and was awarded a Purple Heart by the department for his valor. Zimmerman said that even after that incident, De Guzman eagerly returned to the force and his passion to protect the public never wavered.
Saturday’s tree planting ceremony for the officer was hosted by Tree San Diego, One San Diego and Urban Corps. Faulconer said the new trees in Southcrest are part of the city’s plan to build greener neighborhoods across San Diego, and part of a commitment to plant 1,800 new trees across the city this year alone.