‘Ronnie is My Hero': Funeral Held for Slain Auburn, Mass. Officer

Auburn Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. was shot in the back during a traffic stop early Sunday

Hundreds of people gathered Friday for the funeral of an Auburn, Massachusetts, police officer killed in the line of duty while fellow officers from across the region stood in vigil outside. 

A funeral Mass for Auburn Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. was held Friday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Charlton, followed by burial at Greenville Baptist Church Cemetery in Tarentino's hometown of Leicester. 

The 42-year-old Tarentino, whose father was also a police officer, is survived by his wife and three sons. He was shot in the back during a traffic stop early Sunday.

Tarentino's wife, Tricia, spoke briefly outside the church before the funeral, thanking police departments and community members for the outpouring of support.

"It's amazing to see how many lives he has touched and how each of you has shown and expressed your love for him," she said. 

"Our communities have been so amazing — to rally behind our family, to show their love and pay respect to Ron and their police officers in so many ways," she added. "We have been blessed by all the thoughts and prayers, meals, flowers, signs, services donated, and vigils that were so moving to watch.

The letter Tarentino wrote in applying to the Leicester Police Department was read aloud during the funeral service.

"I know it can be dangerous, but so is crossing the street or driving to the bank," Tarentino wrote in the letter. "That's why I'm trained by the best and will be able to use that knowledge to stay safe out on the streets."

"I can only hope that the road ahead is as good as the last couple years have been," he continued, "but I will take it one day at a time, as I always have."

Tarentino's uncle, Larry James, said his nephew was "just a great kid" who "was always smiling and laughing."

He described Tarentino's laugh as "infectious" and said those who knew Tarentino will never forget it.

"Ronnie is now my hero, and I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity and hte honor of having him in my life," James said. "Our world is turned upside down now, and it makes no sense. I love you Ron, and I will never be able to fill the hole that is left in my heart."

Tarentino's youngest sister, Caitlin Tarentino, delivered the eulogy, remembering him for his sense of humor and his willingness to help anyone.

She made the mourners laugh when she remembered the place of privilege her big brother had as the first-born child in an Italian family. She said it made him "kind of a big deal," and earned him the nickname "the Prince."

She was followed by Auburn Chief Andrew Sluckis, who said he never heard a single complaint about Tarentino, who had earned his deepest respect and trust.

Tarentino's son, Spenser, urged people to be more respectful of police officers.

The driver who shot Tarentino, Jorge Zambrano, was killed after he fired at police from a bedroom closet inside a duplex apartment, injuring a state trooper, state officials said. 

Zambrano had a long criminal history, and some have criticized the judicial system for allowing him to be free after a string of recent arrests and repeated probation violations.

Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey said in a statement Wednesday that court officials are reviewing all of Zambrano's interactions with the court system, including the probation department.

Carey said a preliminary review shows no violation of court rules, laws or procedures. She said a thorough review of Zambrano's court cases is a "major priority" for the trial court.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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