A group of female police officers marched into the grassy outdoor theater at Sacramento State, abruptly stopped and turned toward the stage.
“If seeing hundreds of female police officers doesn’t touch you, you don’t have a heart,” said the school’s president, Robert Nelsen.
This emotional scene set the mood for Sunday night’s candlelight vigil to honor Sacramento Police Officer Tara O’Sullivan, killed in the line of duty Wednesday night.
Nearly 300 people — including O’Sullivan’s parents, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, uniformed officers from thoughout the capital region, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and members of the Sacramento City Council — gathered outside the university library to remember the 26-year-old and share stories about her.
“Thank you to her parents for loaning her to me for four years,” Nelsen began. “Thank you for raising a hero.”
O’Sullivan was responding to a domestic violence call with another officer Wednesday afternoon when she was attacked by a gunman with a rifle, The Bee previously reported. She died that night after being transported to a hospital, and the gunman continued to hold off officers for hours.
At the vigil, lifelong friends, police academy classmates, a professor and co-workers from a restaurant at Sac State where she had worked all tearfully spoke about O’Sullivan’s strength and character.
Sierra Cody said she had been friends with O’Sullivan for over 20 years.
“We all hope to be a sliver of the amazing, beautiful person she was,” she said while fighting back tears.
O’Sullivan graduated from Sacramento State in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in child development, one of the first four students to complete the newly created Law Enforcement Candidate Scholars program. She went on to Sacramento’s police academy and started her service after graduation on Dec. 20, 2018.
Vigil attendees, who ranged from officers in uniform to parents with their children, held lighted candles as Nelsen promised O’Sullivan would never be forgotten. They waved black and white American flags with a blue stripe, often referred to as the police’s flag, in the air during the hour-long event.
Jessica Reed, another one of O’Sullivan’s lifelong friends, said hearing from all of O’Sullivan’s more recently made college friends was a testament to the person she was.
“It doesn’t take much to know who she truly is,” Reed told the crowd.
Cassandra Mohring, now a police officer with the Roseville Police Department, was one of those newer friends. She went through the police academy with O’Sullivan and recalled a time when they were partners for a physical exercise.
Mohring said they both had to get over a 9-foot cement wall, and O’Sullivan — who they all called “O’Sully” — immediately jumped over it. Mohring had a more difficult time scaling the wall, but O’Sullivan was there to help her. Mohring remembers running up to the wall at full-speed and grabbing O’Sullivan’s extended hand, which helped pull her over the daunting wall.
“She will always be there to hold you,” Mohring said. She added that O’Sullivan’s death was especially hard for the female officers because they all “got really close in academy.”
Shelby Moffatt, the coordinator of the LECS program, said he’d known O’Sullivan for nearly two and a half years. He remembered being impressed by her application for the program and said her actual personality 100 percent reflected that.
“Everything that she said was exactly what she was like when I met her,” he recalled.
The night ended with a “stingers up” cry and pinky fingers in the air.
“She was the epitome of what a hornet is,” Nelsen said. “For all the LECS graduates out here ... you have a role model. Look up to her.”