VISALIA — The sound of bagpipes filled the air Tuesday as hundreds of law enforcement officers stood at attention outside a church, watching as pallbearers placed the casket of CHP officer Jesus "Jesse" Magdaleno Jr. into a hearse.
The officers had come from across California and from Nevada to honor Magdaleno for his off-duty bravery in Las Vegas, where he had gone for his bachelor party but died trying to rescue his brother-in-law.
Magdaleno, 33, was killed Aug. 18 when his pickup was carjacked at the Flamingo hotel and casino as he and Felix Brandon Cruz III, 31, of Visalia, were loading luggage into the cargo bed.
When the carjacker jumped behind the wheel, Cruz -- still in the cargo bed -- called for help. Magdaleno yelled at the driver that he was a police officer and jumped into the truck bed with Cruz, officials in Nevada said.
The driver sped off but crashed a mile away, killing Magdaleno and fatally injuring Cruz. His services are Thursday in Visalia.
A poignant reminder that Magdaleno was preparing for his wedding in September emerged after the nearly hour-long service: leading the way as family members followed the casket to the hearse were two girls under age 5 wearing white dresses. They were to be flower girls at the wedding and wore the dresses they would have worn to the wedding, a family member said.
Although off-duty, Magdaleno "died continuing the mission" of the CHP to protect the public, said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow, who attended the funeral.
Farrow was among scores of Highway Patrol brass and officers from San Diego to Sacramento who attended the funeral.
Officers from other law enforcement agencies, including the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Nevada State Patrol, were on hand.
Two people from Magdaleno's former Marine Corps unit also attended the funeral, CHP spokesman Scott Harris said.
A color guard from Lemoore Naval Air Station provided a 21-gun salute at a graveside ceremony following church services.
Magdaleno, an eight-year veteran of the CHP, had worked in Visalia for three years on the graveyard shift. He quickly made friends and set such a good example that he was assigned as a training officer, Harris said.
Friends entering First Assembly of God church told reporters that Magdaleno was the kind of person who went the extra mile to help his friends.
Sam Lopez of Visalia said he bought a used picnic table from Magdaleno, who came over on his day off to help him refinish it.
Sam's wife, Stephanie Lopez, said Magdaleno was a dear friend. "I don't want him to be remembered for how he died, I want him to be remembered for what he was -- an all-around great guy," she said.
Amanda Olguin of Tulare, a friend of Magdaleno's fiancée, said the couple wanted to have children and even bought furniture bumpers that protect children from sharp corners.
"He was a hero," Olguin said.
"His attitude was always positive," said Henry Rosaro of Madera.
Following the service, dozens of CHP squad cars and motorcycles formed a procession to Visalia District Cemetery.
Magdaleno's final resting place is in an area reserved for military and law enforcement heroes.
Magdaleno, known as "Jay" to his friends and "Jesse" at work, was born in Visalia and graduated from Tulare Western High in 1998.
He joined the Marine Corps after high school and reached the rank of sergeant before his discharge. Following military service, he went to the Highway Patrol Academy where he graduated at the top of his class. He worked in San Diego, Fresno, Coalinga and Visalia.
He is survived by his mother JoAnn Gonzales, fiancée Nikki Mellow, brothers Mike and Vince Gonzales and sisters Debbie Quiterio, Teresa Davis and Kristina Cruz, five nieces and two nephews.
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