MESA, Ariz. — Flowers, balloons, cards and candles are all part of a growing memorial at Guerrero Park near Eighth Avenue and County Club Drive for fallen Mesa Police Officer Brandon Mendoza.
“It’s just tragic and it happened in such an instant,” said resident Jody Erickson.
Mendoza was killed early Monday by 42-year-old Raul Silva Corona, who was driving on the wrong side of the freeway for more than 35 miles and crashed into Mendoza’s car while he was off-duty. Corona was also killed in the collision.
Many members of the nearby community have come to pay their respects at Guerrero Park where he was an active member of the community both on- and off-duty.
“Most kids in this neighborhood run from cops,” said Montez Currin, a coach of the nearby Grant Woods Boys and Girls Club. “They’re afraid of cops, but (when) they see Officer ‘B,’ they see him and they’re like, ‘We’re safe.'”
Currin said Mendoza had a strong influence on Guerrero Park, and a photo hanging at the memorial shows Mendoza painting part of the murals that sit at the front entrance of the park.
Handwritten notes from nearby kids say, “Officer Mendoza was my hero,” while another says, “You are still my hero.”
For Currin, he said he is touched by all the items left at the memorial, but a two items stick out to him the most: a Starbucks Coffee cup and bag of Cheez-Its.
“That’s what he ate,” he said. “That’s what he ate, dude, you’d see him with Starbucks coffee and Cheez-Its, that definitely tear-jerked me.”
A second memorial has also been set up out front of the Mesa Police headquarters, where a candlelight memorial will be held Tuesday evening.