A Florida Orthodox Jewish community in Emerald Hills – a neighborhood in Hollywood, Fla. – turned out to honor a slain officer for his heroic actions in keeping the neighborhood safe.
Officer Yandy Chirino, 28, was shot and killed after confronting an 18-year-old accused of burglarizing cars. Chirino, who was awarded June 2020 officer of the month, had volunteered to work on the day of his death.
According to Hollywood Police Chief Chris O’Brien, Chirino had an “outstanding work ethic.”
Around 1,000 Jewish residents from Emerald Hills gathered at Shabbos Park on Oct. 21 – where the officer was slain – to pass out prayer cards and light candles for a vigil. They wore t-shirts with Chirino’s photograph that read: “Fallen but not forgotten,” and said prayers.
“For the community of Emerald Hills, this has always been a happy place, a spiritual place, not just for the Jewish community, but for everyone,” Hollywood Commissioner Adam Gruber said. “You see, this tragedy didn’t strike close to home. It struck home.”
The usually peaceful community was shocked by the shooting, and knew they had to do something.
The local synagogue, Young Israel, decided to plan a vigil.
“The next morning, when it came out that we had lost an officer, everyone I spoke to was so distraught,” program director Frier said in an interview. “What can we do? We need to do something.”
The synagogue also sent food to the police precinct, organizing hundreds of meals for Chirino’s colleagues.
Veszi Einhorn, a long-time resident, said that they often rely on law enforcement.
“We rely so much on them to be there for us, no matter what. Loss of life, we don’t take lightly,” she explained.
Chirino, a Cuban migrant, came to Miami as a child and gained citizenship at 10. He received a bachelors degree in criminal justice from the Florida International University, and then joined the Hollywood Police Department in 2017.
According to friends and family, Chirino loved to play soccer and travel.
“In the short four and a half years he was with our police department family, he had such a positive impact, and he loved life and he lived it to the fullest,” O’Brien said at the vigil.
Chirino responded to a call about a suspicious person a red bicycle pulling on door handles when he was shot. The suspect, teenager Jason Banegas had just been released from jail 30 days prior and had an extensive criminal history according to police.
According to an arrest warrant, Banegas was riding home in his sister’s boyfriend’s Jeep when the car broke down near the Emerald Hills country club. He then wandered the neighborhood while the boyfriend waited for a tow truck, stealing a red bicycle from a house and looking for unlocked cars.
Police say, that a second officer saw Banegas fighting with Chirinos in a grassy area of the park, with Chirinos trying to wrestle control over Banegas’ gun. When the officer showed up, he kicked Banegas’ gun from his hand and handcuffed him, but Chirino was shot in the face and unresponsive.
The Jeep driver said he heard two gunshots, while Banegas claimed he was trying to shoot himself.
Banegas is being held at Broward Jail without bond on murder charges and several other counts.