On Tuesday, the bodies of the five Dallas police officers who were killed in last week's shooting will be laid to rest. President Obama will travel to Dallas for the memorial and to meet with the victims' families.
Among the slain officers was Lorne Ahrens, who grew up in Southern California and worked 11 years for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
“He just loved being in law enforcement,” said sheriff's Capt. Ken McWaid, who first met Ahrens in 1991. “You could tell it was his passion to be a police officer.”
McWaid and Ahrens worked together at the sheriff's station in Lennox. In the early 1990s, the sheriff’s department wasn’t hiring very many people, he said, explaining that Ahrens took an early morning shift as a dispatcher, answering the 911 calls that came into the station. McWaid remembers seeing Ahrens beginning his shift after a couple rounds of boxing, Ahrens’ favorite way to work out. He’d even spar with the older deputies.
“We saw him as an equal, even when he was just starting out,” McWaid said.
When someone called 911, Ahrens was the voice on the line. His job required communication skills, patience and knowledge of the role of police officers in his community, McWaid said.
“He was pretty much our eyes out there,” McWaid said. A dispatcher can make or break the deputies' response to a crime, McWaid said, and Ahrens was as good as it gets — he knew the right way to ask questions and quickly relay information to deputies in the field.
But Ahrens wanted to be in the field himself, so he applied to other agencies. In 2002, he accepted a job with the Dallas Police Department as an officer.
"They basically told him that he had the job if he could make it to Dallas by Monday," Mark Allen, who was in the same academy class as Ahrens at the Dallas Police Department. He worked with Ahrens for nine years.
"He'd preach to [the other members of our class] the importance of always being ready and remaining vigilant," Allen said. "Like a worried father, he would yell because he cared, not out of anger."
In the 14 years Ahrens worked in Dallas, he had two kids and became a senior corporal. His friends called him Meat, because he was bigger and taller than the rest of them.
This past weekend, Ahrens' 30-year high school reunion was held in Los Angeles, where former classmates honored his service. His sister-in-law, Carolina Sonner, sent KPCC this statement from her family.
“At this time we ask that the nation pray for peace and unity, and that Lorne’s bravery and life and memory be honored,” she wrote.
Visitation services for Ahrens will be held Tuesday in Plano, Texas. His high school, Bishop Alemany, set up a web page where community members can donate money to Ahrens’ wife and children.