HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Hundreds met for a prayer vigil in honor of Officer Yandy Chirino on Thursday at the Mara Berman Giulianti Park in Hollywood where officials plan to place a monument in his honor.
The ceremony was also near the growing memorial where Chirino, 28, was shot while on duty. There were candles and flowers. Ari Blaine and his neighbors brought flags.
“My heart is devastated for the family ... Police, in general, don’t get enough respect. We love them, respect them. They go out every single day and they put their lives on the line for all of us,” Blaine said.
Dozens of motormen escorted an ambulance carrying Chirino’s body from the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office to a funeral home in Miami-Dade County.
His sister, Yaily Chirino, said she wants the public to remember Chirino as a hero. He was born in Havana, Cuba, and grew up in Miami-Dade County. He graduated from Coral Park Senior High School in 2011 and from Florida International University in 2015.
“He was an MVP athlete who played volleyball, soccer, baseball, and basketball,” Jovany Coronado wrote in a GoFundMe page to benefit Chirino’s family.
Chirino was adventurous. His YouTube videos show him paragliding in Colombia, flying a Cessna in South Florida, and jet-skiing in Lake Powell, a reservoir on the border of Utah and Arizona.
After graduating from the police academy, Chirino joined the Hollywood Police Department in 2017. Soon after, he volunteered to help raise funds for the Special Olympics.
His personnel file included commendations from five supervisors. In 2018, Sgt. Larry VanDusseldorp praised his “tactics and rapid response” after catching a repeat burglar within a minute after dispatch.
In 2019, Sgt. Alexander Chang commended Chirino’s “rapid response, excellent patrol techniques, and observation skills” after arresting two burglary suspects.
Chirino was the June 2020 officer of the month after Sgt. Brian Kalish commended him for his “teamwork, police tactics, use of resources and dedication to duty” after identifying a car burglar.
Chirino wasn’t scheduled to work on Oct. 17, but he called his supervisor to see if he needed help and volunteered to work a shift that Sunday night. About 10:30 p.m., Chirino responded to a report of a car burglar. Officers said Chirino confronted Jason Banegas, who fit the description.
THE 18-YEAR-OLD GUNMAN
Banegas had a Glock 43x, 9mm semi-automatic handgun — that a man had reported stolen on Sept. 14 — and he was riding a stolen bicycle after the car he was in broke down, police said.
The owner of the gun said he kept it in his car’s glove compartment in Miami Dade County and he had locked it in after two women he was with saw it.
Banegas told officers he was going to shoot himself and Chirino was shot in the face during a struggle.
Banegas, who was first arrested when he was 12, had been released from the Crestview Youth Academy, which has a residential substance abuse program in Okaloosa County and is associated with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
The program’s “anticipated average length of stay depends on the youth’s pace of success in completing the individualized treatment,” according to FDJJ. Banegas was court-ordered to complete the program after he was arrested for cocaine and marijuana possession near a school in Miami-Dade.
Broward Circuit Judge Tabitha Blackmon denied Banegas bond on Tuesday and said he was out on juvenile probation when officers arrested him for murder. Records show he has been in Broward County jail since Monday evening.
Detectives released surveillance images of two cars and asked the public for help. As they search for more clues, they want to talk to the occupants of the cars.
2 OFFICERS DEAD
This week has been tragic for the Hollywood Police Department.
Lt. John Graham, a retired U.S. Marine and 20-year veteran of the department, died by suicide on Oct. 18 — just a few hours after Chirino died at Memorial Regional Hospital.
Chirino’s funeral service will be on Nov. 1 at the FLA Live Arena, at 1 Panther Pkwy., in Sunrise, followed by interment at Vista Memorial Gardens, at 14200 NW 57 Terr., in Miami Lakes.
The department hasn’t released information about Graham’s services.