An 8-year-old girl whose police officer father was killed in the line of duty two weeks ago returned to her California school on Monday for the first time since losing her dad — but she wasn’t alone.
According to USA Today, more than a dozen of her father’s former colleagues escorted Vanessa Vega on her first day back to school since her father Jose “Gil” Vega was gunned down while responding to a domestic violence call in Palm Springs.
Sgt. William Hutchinson of the Palm Springs Police Department told USA Today the officers wanted to show Vanessa they’ll always be there for her.
“It is a very tragic time for her. We can’t walk away. She has a whole new family to rely on,” Hutchinson told the newspaper.
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The officers picked Vanessa up at her home before driving her to Rio Vista Elementary, where she’s a fourth-grader.
Hutchinson told USA Today that many more officers wanted to be there for Vanessa, but the department had to limit how many showed up this morning, as a long line of patrol vehicles would have disrupted local traffic.
Vanessa is the youngest of eight children. During an Oct. 8 memorial service paying tribute to her dad and officer Lesley Zerebny, who was also killed responding to the same call, Vanessa told the audience she learned everything she knows from her father.
“Just because we can’t see him doesn’t mean he can’t see us,” she said at the memorial service, according to USA Today. “Everything I learned from him — baseball, karate, and running. And when I learned how to get faster, he used to go on races with me, and he was always very slow. And he was a good cop, dad, grandpa and brother and many more. He was happy with his life, he was happy with everything.”
Police from more than three dozen department attended the memorial service.