The tragedy of Chandler police Detective Carlos Ledesma's death could be heard in the stifled sniffles and loud wails from distraught loved ones at his viewing Tuesday night.
It could be seen as hundreds of civilians and police from across the state paid their respects, hugging, shaking hands and saluting his flag-draped coffin at the Chandler Center for the Arts.
If sorrow is a weight, it was being borne with dignity and tears as throngs honored the slain officer, 34, killed in the line of duty July 28 during a drug operation turned sour in Phoenix.
His life was laid out for those in attendance: His awards for excellent duty as a U.S. Marine, the clarinet he must have loved, the photos of him riding his motorcycles.
But no photos were as poignant as those of him with his wife, Sherry, and two young sons. In photo after photo, on display on tables and in albums, Ledesma and his wife appear the epitome of a young couple in love. They are smiling, hugging, spending time with their children. Their grins are radiant.
There are photos of their wedding, of a beaming Ledesma pointing to his wife's pregnant belly, of a father laughing with his boys.
Ledesma was with Chandler three years, and in that time moved from a patrol officer and translator to a detective on the Chandler criminal-investigations unit, where he worked undercover and with informants, according to records.
In his application for employment, he said he enjoyed working out as a hobby, which is apparent in his photos: He was a muscle-bound man with a big smile and tattoos.
He received a commendation in Jun 2009 for outstanding police work regarding burglary to vehicle reports that led to a conviction. The file shows that he was Marine for eight years, achieving the rank of sergeant, and among his duties he was a martial arts instructor-trainer, training Marines in close combat.
He later held a series of jobs, including router operator, warehouse worker and package handler, before joining the Police Department in Spirit Lake, Iowa, where he was a patrol officer, defensive tactics coordinator and translator.
During his time there, he received his associate's degree in criminal justice at Iowa Lakes Community College, according to his personnel file.
He resigned in 2006, according to the personnel file, and proceeded to do part-time work at three Iowa police departments before joining the Chandler Police Department in 2007.
Sgt. Scott Colt of the Spirit Lake Department painted a picture of an officer who worked hard and was always trying to improve himself.
He took his job pretty seriously, Colt said.
During the July 28 undercover operation, Ledesma was one of three Chandler officers shot in a deal in which they were posing as marijuana sellers. One has been released from the hospital and the other is progressing but still hospitalized at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.
Two suspects were killed, one is still in the hospital, and five others were charged Tuesday with charges ranging from murder to attempting to sell marijuana.
by Laurie Merrill
Aug. 3, 2010