Newman is a city in mourning following the shooting death of Police Corporal Ronil Singh.
All over this community, there are tributes to the fallen policeman.
The Christmas holiday brought joy and warmth to homes throughout the Central Valley. But to our neighbors just north of the Merced County line in Stanislaus County, the day after Christmas was marked by tragedy, sadness, and the early stages of the grieving process.
Corporal Singh was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the early morning of December 26.
Law enforcement throughout California tracked the man who is now charged with that death.
Gustavo Perez Arriaga was arrested in Kern County two days later. Officials say Arriaga was in the country illegally. He has been charged with murder and could face the death penalty.
In this city of eleven-thousand people, there is now a sense of true loss. Corporal Singh came to America and pursued citizenship so that he could become a police officer.
On my recent visit, I came across several American flags being displayed at half-staff in honor of Corporal Singh. Among the people I saw on my visit was a young father who silently looked at the many flowers in front of the Police Department headquarters. Respecting his privacy, I did not ask him any questions.
I merely offered my acknowledgment of the display of flowers and spoke just three words. “A sad day.”
He looked me in the eye and nodded his head affirmatively. “It sure is,” he said. He then went to his car, and brought his young grade school aged son up to the display.
Based on the inscription on some of the arrangements, the flowers come from as far away as Redondo Beach in southern California.
Some had banners with short phrases helping the sender express their feelings about Corporal Singh. One in particular read “Hometown Hero”.
There were posters prepared by younger mourners taped to the front of the Police Department building. One read, “To the police, from Gavin. Thank you.”
Another poster read: “Our hearts are with you Newman P.D.”
The expression of grief extends beyond Main Street in the City of Newman. As I was leaving town heading west of highway 33, I spotted another display in front of a residence.
The display includes a cross made from ordinary PVC pipe. Written on the vertical length of pipe are these words: forever in our hearts, Ronil Singh.
Corporal Singh is remembered as a family man, a trusted colleague, and a loyal friend. His life is being honored by police officers and other first responders, along with family members and friends.
Nowhere is that love and respect more visible than in that small city in southwest Stanislaus County.
It will take time for the City of Newman to grieve the loss of Ronil Singh. He leaves a wife and children, along with extended family, friends, and those in law enforcement near and far who lost a dedicated servant.
Steve Newvine lives in Merced.
His new book Stand By, Camera One is available on Lulu.com