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McAllen may name park after fallen police officers

The McAllen City Commission may name a park after two police officers who died in the line of duty last year.

Ideas being discussed by the City Commission include renaming Los Encinos Park in memory of the officers and creating a new monument at another park, which would memorialize all city employees who died on the job.

“I think we definitely need to do something for the two fallen heroes,” said City Commissioner Omar Quintanilla. “And naming a park would have this lasting impact.”

Both proposals would honor Officer Edelmiro Garza Jr. and Officer Ismael Z. Chavez. On July 11, 2020, they responded to a domestic disturbance on the 3500 block of Queta Avenue in south McAllen.

After meeting with the person who contacted police, Garza and Chavez approached a nearby house. A man met them at the door — and shot them.

“Our officers did not draw their weapons. Did not fire. Never stood a chance,” McAllen police Chief Victor Rodriguez said during an emotional news conference after the shooting. The murders stunned McAllen.

The murders stunned McAllen. During the past 109 years, just three police officers had died in the line of duty. The tragic deaths of Garza and Chavez brought the total to five.

McAllen etched their names on a memorial near the police department, but the City Commission also began searching for other ways to remember Garza and Chavez.

On Jan. 25 and Feb. 8, the City Commission agenda listed “Consultation with City Attorney regarding legal aspects of naming city parks” under executive session.

In McAllen, many city parks are named after their locations. Naming a park after a fallen police officer, however, had precedent.

In May 1991, a decade after Officer Rosalin Suarez Jr. died in the line of duty, McAllen named a park after him.

The park, located north of the McAllen Boys & Girls Club on Galveston Avenue, features picnic tables, a playground and a simple concrete monument with a small plaque.

“This park is dedicated to Officer Rosalin Suarez who was killed in the line of duty on May 19, 1981, while serving the citizens of McAllen,” reads the plaque.

City Commissioner Tania Ramirez said the proposal to rename Los Encinos Park seemed fitting because the park is located just blocks from where the shooting happened.

Ramirez, though, cautioned that renaming Los Encinos Park is just a proposal. The city will consult with the Garza and Chavez families before making a decision.

“I think it’s appropriate. It’s one way to show the community still remembers,” said Mayor Jim Darling.

Another option under consideration by the City Commission is creating a “Heroes Park” to honor all city employees killed on the job. It may be located at Municipal Park or another existing park.

The memorial would encompass police officers, firefighters and others who died while serving the public.

Darling said that, for example, the memorial could include several city utility workers killed during an accident in the 1950s.

While plans to rename a park remain preliminary, City Commissioner Javier Villalobos said he’s optimistic McAllen will make a decision before the one-year anniversary of their deaths.

“I think we should honor all our fallen heroes,” Villalobos said.

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