SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — With heavy hearts, hundreds packed a candlelight memorial Wednesday night to honor the life of fallen Sacramento Police Officer Tara O’Sullivan.
“We were lucky to love her, and even luckier to be loved by her,” said O’Sullivan’s aunt.
The ceremony took place one week after the rookie officer was gunned down in the line of duty, responding to a domestic violence dispute.
People gathered less than than a mile away from where Officer O’Sullivan was killed.
“Her strong beautiful smile was so contagious, it was truly as bright as the sun,” said her aunt.
Penny Miller attended the memorial in support of the family. She lost her brother, Sacramento Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, who was also killed by suspects in the line of duty.
Swipe through photos from the candlelight memorial
“My heart breaks for the family, I know what they’re going through I’m just here to show my support,” said Miller.
O’Sullivan’s mother, Kellie, also spoke for the first time.
“We truly appreciate you coming out here today and all the messages we’ve received,” said Kellie O’Sullivan.
With prayer, the lighting of candles and a moment of silence, the community gathered at the site of a sacred place- the sheriff and police memorial in north Sacramento.
Her family spoke about Tara’s spirit.
“Her heart was wild, it was courageous, it was honorable…We wanted to run with it, to set ours free,” said her aunt.
It was a show of unity during a time of grief.
“It’s heartbreaking to see an officer killed while trying to help, so many officers being killed by just doing their jobs,” said Miller.
For her fellow officers put into words how this last week has been difficult.
“Our community support has been huge and feeling it at a time like this is as big as it gets to help us through this horrible time,” said Sacramento Police Officer Chad Lewis.
At 26 years old, Officer O’Sullivan had just graduated from the police academy six months ago. Her fellow classmates were seen wearing t-shirts with her name. Blue ribbons were lining the columns.
“Blue ribbons are everywhere, in fact, we call it our community sea of blue,” said Chaplain Mindi Russell.
Russell said it’s important to hold these events so people can come together and grieve as one community.
“We come together and we begin the healing and no one feels alone anymore,” said Russell.
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn spoke briefly, sharing in his department’s pain.
“Tara’s family is amazing. We should all pledge to lift this family up, hold this family close. Tara was an amazing person, and I know she will continue to be an incredible force in our lives,” said Hahn.
This is the first time the department has had an officer killed in the line of duty in 20 years
On Thursday, thousands of officers from around the country are expected to come out for O’sullivan’s Memorial service and two planned processions.