McALLEN — Their memories live on in their families, their law enforcement community and in the cities they served; and now they’ll live on a wall of valor.
Dozens gathered in the parking lot of the Boys & Girls Club Othal E. Brand Center on Friday morning where a dedication was held to ceremoniously unveil a mural honoring fallen law enforcement officers from the community.
Members of the McAllen Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety state troopers joined the families of Trooper Moises Sanchez and McAllen police Officer Edelmiro Garza and police Officer Ismael Chavez at the ceremony honoring their lives.
The idea for the mural, which displays the likenesses of Sanchez, Garza and Chavez, initially came about following the death of Sanchez, who had an extensive history with the Boys & Girls Club as a coach.
Sanchez, Garza and Chavez were all shot in the line of duty and died from their injuries — Sanchez in 2019 and Garza and Chavez in July.
“The idea has been there for about a year,” said Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of McAllen. “Once Trooper Sanchez did pass, we said, ‘What are we going to do to honor his legacy?’ Then ultimately when the other two officers unfortunately passed away, that’s when we were like, ‘OK, we’ve got to hunker down and do something.”
The mural was suggested by one of the club’s board members. Once they received the blessings of the fallen peace officers’ family members, they were able to move forward with the project. The board members personally invested in the mural, according to Alcantar.
Friday’s ceremony was the culmination of the club’s yearlong efforts.
Lasting just over 20 minutes, the ceremony offered an opportunity for the families to share their grief while cementing their loved ones’ legacies on the wall of the Boys & Girls Club facility.
Among those who spoke during the ceremony were Zachary Sanchez, son of the late Trooper Sanchez.
“This Boys & Girls Club in particular, here on Galveston, it’s emotional coming back here,” Zachary said during the ceremony. His father devoted much of his free time to coaching and teaching mixed martial arts in the facility all the way up to the day of his shooting.
“Most of his service was mainly to direct family members or coworkers, but this is where it really all started — where he was able to go ahead and give back to the community,” Zachary continued. “That eventually carried into the love that he gave in his work as being a law enforcement officer for the (Texas) Department of Public Safety.
“Having the mural, of all places, in this building means the world, as well as being placed alongside the two McAllen police officers.”
Alexandro Gonzalez, who is more commonly known by his pseudonym “Pop Culture,” was commissioned by the club’s board to create the mural. Gonzalez has made a name for himself with his intricate murals throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
In June, he made headlines when he painted a mural in Donna of Vanessa Guillen, 20-year-old private first class in the U.S. Army who was killed while stationed at Fort Hood. Since then, he has painted murals of Army PV2 Gregory Wedel Morales, Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosecrans, Spc. Enrique Roman-Martinez, Sgt. Elder Fernandes, and more recently Chadwick Boseman, who portrayed T’Challa in Marvel’s “Black Panther.”
His newest work of art depicts the three portraits of the fallen men. With yellow, crimson and orange backgrounds, the mural features their portraits and that have since become ubiquitous throughout the Valley along with their respective badges.
“I want the community to never forget the sacrifice that these men gave to protect and serve,” Chaira Valenzuela, sister of Officer Chavez, said during the ceremony. She said that her brother, who was an educator for 11 years prior to becoming a police officer, had an interest in the Boys & Girls Club because of his love for children.
“I want to add that my brother was a God-fearing man,” she continued. “He read his Bible, he loved God, he loved his community, he loved his family, he was a good man all the way around.”
Officer Garza’s sister, Patricia Garza, also spoke on behalf of Garza’s family during the ceremony.
“On behalf of the Garza family, we would like to express our gratitude to the board of directors of the McAllen Boys & Girls Club,” Patricia said. “We would also like to thank Alexander for bringing this to life. You did an amazing job and we can’t thank you enough.
“To the community, we ask you to never forget that these men are the true heroes that selflessly gave their lives to protect our community. We will never be able to bring them back, but what consoles us is that praise our Lord is with us every step of the way.”
Following the ceremony, Alcantar shared her thoughts on what she described as an emotional day.
“I think in the midst of these national conversations, what I know is that these three men — their deaths were not controversial, their lives were not controversial,” Alcantar said. “They took an oath, and they took it seriously — to keep their city and their region safe. Ultimately, they made the ultimate sacrifice, but their deaths were not in controversy. That’s why we really knew that we could celebrate their lives.”
“It’s just a blessing to see everybody congregate to honor them.”