‘Ron Was More Than Just a Cop': Friends, Former Colleagues Remember Fallen Officer

Tarentino, 42, was fatally shot during a traffic stop early Sunday morning in Auburn, Massachusetts

Friends and former colleagues remembered slain Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino on Monday as "an unbelievable guy," who was liked by everyone he came into contact with.

"Ron was more than just a cop," Leicester Police Sgt. Paul Doray said of Tarentino, who served as a police officer in Leicester for seven years before transferring to Auburn.

Tarentino, 42, was shot and killed by a suspect around 12:30 a.m. Sunday in Auburn during a traffic stop. The suspect, 35-year-old Jorge Zambrano, was fatally shot by police late Sunday at a duplex apartment in Oxford, Massachusetts, but not before he shot and wounded a Massachusetts State Police trooper.

At a press conference Monday in Leicester, Doray called Tarentino "an unbelievable guy," who made friends everywhere he went.

"There's not a single person in this department who wasn't friends with this guy," he said. "He was just that type of person."

Doray said he spoke with Tarentino just a couple days before he was shot and killed, and the two talked about their shared love of cars. He said Tarentino's death "is going to have a huge impact on this community."

Leicester Police Chief James Hurley referred to Tarentino as a "friend and a colleague" and said his "constant smile and infectious laugh" will be missed. "It's difficult to stand here right now." 

The Auburn Police Department has set up a memorial fund for Tarentino's wife and three children. 

Donations can be sent to the Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. Memorial Fund at Savers Bank in Auburn.

His wake will be Thursday, May 26, from 2-7 p.m. at St. Joseph's Church in Charlton, and the funeral will be Friday, May 27, at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph's. He'll be buried at Greenville Baptist Church Cemetery in Leicester.

State police said the trooper who was shot while attempting to apprehend Zambrano is out of surgery and is expected to survive.

Zambrano burst out of a bedroom closet and opened fire on officers Sunday evening as they approached him inside a duplex apartment in Oxford, investigators said. Oxford is about 7 miles south of Auburn, where Tarentino was fatally shot hours earlier.

"The suspect appeared from inside a closet and fired on the troopers, striking one of them," State Police Col. Richard McKeon said. State police tactical operations then returned fire and hit Zambrano. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

The injured trooper suffered a gunshot wound to his left shoulder and underwent surgery late Sunday night. He is recovering in the hospital. The name of the 18-year veteran and former U.S. Navy Seal wasn't released.

"I'm extremely proud of the work done by every trooper and officer involved in today's investigation and tactical operation," McKeon said. "My pride is outweighed only by my sorrow for the Tarentino family and the Auburn police, and my concern over our injured trooper."

The violent end to the manhunt came nearly 18 hours after Tarentino was shot dead by Zambrano.

Officials said Zambrano fled the scene after the shooting. They later learned that he was at the Oxford duplex and spotted what they believed was his vehicle parked behind the building. It remained unclear why Zambrano may have shot Tarentino or why he went to the duplex.

After the manhunt, officials assured Massachusetts residents that they were safe.

"The threat he (Zambrano) posed to our community is now over," Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis said. "We now continue the process of speaking for Officer Tarentino by continuing to investigate all the facts and circumstances of his homicide. We owe his family a thorough accounting of everything that occurred."

State and local police officers lined up outside of the hospital Sunday as a police vehicle, escorted by a procession, took Tarentino's body to the state medical examiner's office in Boston, where the vehicle was met by another large contingent of officers.

Tarentino was the second police officer to die in the line of duty in Massachusetts this year. State police Trooper Thomas Clardy was killed on March 16 when his cruiser was struck by another vehicle.

Outside the Auburn police station, the American flag was lowered to half-staff.

The town's residents left bouquets of flowers and miniature American flags at the bottom of a stone monument dedicated to law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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