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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

April 23, 2003
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No. Calif. Detective Laid to Rest

Huge crowd pays tribute to Ray Giacomelli

Charlie Goodyear, San Francisco Chronicle

An overflow crowd of police officers, friends and family gave their farewells Monday to veteran Pittsburg homicide inspector Ray Giacomelli, who was gunned down last week while investigating a murder.

Enduring stiff winds and cold rain, hundreds of officers from around California stood stoically outside the Good Shepherd Church in Pittsburg while hundreds of mourners paid respect to the veteran detective's memory.

"Ray paid the ultimate price by giving his life to the city of Pittsburg," said Pittsburg Police Chief Aaron Baker, calling Giacomelli "a true hero."

Giacomelli, 46, was found shot to death on April 15 at a home on Abbott Avenue. He was investigating the fatal shooting of 21-year-old Eric Huffman there a week before.

Authorities believe parolee and suspected drug dealer Earl Foster Jr. was responsible for both killings. Foster was dating Huffman's sister, but authorities have not given a motive for Huffman's death.

After an intense manhunt, Foster was found in Modesto last week. Authorities say he was killed after shooting at police who returned fire.

Giacomelli's funeral was attended by numerous city, county and state dignitaries, including Gov. Gray Davis, who told mourners that Giacomelli had served the people of Pittsburg with great honor and embodied "the best our society had to offer."

Giacomelli was an officer for 23 years and one of the first at the Pittsburg Police Department to be named to the rank of inspector.

Aside from his love for his job, Giacomelli was a dedicated husband and father who enjoyed hunting and fishing and displayed a talent for cooking. On Monday, one of his two daughters, Jessica Giacomelli, remembered her father as "my best friend, my hero, my dad and much more.

"I do not know why God took you from us," she said. "He probably has a better job for you in heaven."

Four Pittsburg police motorcycles led the hearse bearing Giacomelli's body to the front of the church. Officers stood at attention as pall bearers brought Giacomelli's coffin, draped with the American flag, into the church. Giacomelli's wife and two daughters, all dressed in black, looked on, wiping away their tears as a bagpiper played.

The Rev. Helmut Richter, chaplain for the Pittsburg Police Department, noted that Giacomelli's death had come just a few days before Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

"The tragedy is real, but no tragedy is final," Richter said. "Not even the cross, not even the death of Ray."

Giacomelli's older brother, Leo Giacomelli, recalled for mourners how, as a child, his younger brother "was always on the run." As a teenager growing up in Richmond, Giacomelli occasionally "started fights that his big brother had to finish."

But as he developed into adulthood and a career in law enforcement, Giacomelli also displayed a strong sense of morality. "He wanted to make wrong things right," his older brother said, choking back sobs.

Leo Giacomelli told Pittsburg police officers attending the funeral that there was "no guilt to feel, no blame to seek" for his brother's death.

The Giacomelli family also issued a statement expressing sympathy for Foster's relatives.

"There is no anger," said Giacomelli's cousin, Ralph Hernandez, an inspector with the Contra Costa district attorney's office. "We have extended our condolences to the Earl Foster family."

The department has set up a trust fund for Giacomelli's family. Donations can be made to Merrill Lynch, 1111 Broadway, 22 Floor, Oakland, CA 94607.

Giacomelli is the first officer to be killed in the line of duty in Pittsburg since 1935. He was buried Monday at Holy Cross Cemetery in Antioch.






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