Vigil for Newman officer honors ‘our wonderful friend, protector, family member’

More than 1,000 people held candles in memory of police Cpl. Ronil Singh in a downtown Newman plaza already glowing with Christmas lights.

Friday’s vigil came three nights after Singh was shot to death during a traffic stop, and several hours after his alleged killer and seven other people were arrested.

His brother, Reggie Singh, spoke to the crowd while holding the slain officer’s 5-month-old son, wrapped in a blanket against the winter chill.

“Ronil loved his job,” he said. “... I thank you all, and the police department of Newman, for giving Ron an awesome time, the time he worked over here.”

Singh, 33, had been a Newman officer since 2011. He was one of nine officers in the city of about 11,000 people

“We are saddened, grief, some anger, for the senseless killing of our wonderful friend, protector, family member,” said Casey Graham, a Newman city council member and police officer in Modesto.

Ronil Singh’s wife, Anamika, attended the vigil along with other relatives and friends. So did Sam, the late officer’s K-9 partner, who will remain with the family rather than return to narcotics duty.

The corporal was among the many Indian people from Fiji who have immigrated to the area. Admirers have talked this week about his determination to be a police officer and his love of ocean fishing and other exploits.

Police Chief Randy Richardson let on Friday night that Singh was short of perfect: “Ron wasn’t a great driver. He wrecked a couple of our patrol cars.”

Singh was killed at about 1 a.m. Wednesday after pulling over a suspected drunk driver at Merced Street and Eucalyptus Avenue. A 55-hour manhunt led to the arrest just east of Bakersfield of Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, on suspicion of shooting the corporal. Seven other people, including Arriaga’s girlfriend and brother, face charges of accessory after the fact, or aiding and abetting.

Richardson said he appreciated the many tips to investigators into Singh’s shooting, but he lamented that people want to remain anonymous in these situations.

“Why has our society gone there?” he said. “Why aren’t we proud to step up and help? That’s what we need to get back to, is community, that small town feeling, and let it grow.”

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.