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Sheriff's Officer Killed Trying To Stop Robbery at Holiday Party

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An off-duty Cook County Sheriff's officer was killed Friday night while trying to stop an attempted robbery outside of a holiday party in a Chicago suburb, authorities said.

The sheriff's investigator, 50-year-old Cuauhtemoc Estrada, was attending a family Christmas party at the VFW Bellwood Memorial Post 5081, on the 200 block of 30th Avenue, in west suburban Bellwood.

Family members said Estrada confronted two masked men with a large gun who were robbing his daughter's boyfriend outside of the party.

Shots were fired around 7:30 p.m. when Estrada tried to intervene in the attempted robbery, officials said at a news conference.

Estrada was shot in the chest while reaching for his weapon, according to Bellwood's Public Safety Director Andre Harvey. It was not clear whether Estrada was carrying a service weapon or a personal one.

According to witness accounts, the suspects fled the scene and were at large as of Saturday morning, Harvey said.

Family members said his daughter, who was with her boyfriend during the robbery, witnessed the shooting.

Christina Estrada, 19, said she can't believe her father is gone.

"It just feels so unreal," she said while wearing a police charm around her neck with her father's badge number on it. "He was a good person and a good father. He was always there for us. He just wanted us to succeed in life. Now, he won't be able to see me walk across the stage when I graduate college."

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Estrada was a former U.S. Marine and a 20-year veteran of the department. He worked in the department's electronic monitoring unit, according to sheriff's spokesman Ben Breit.

"It's horribly sad for everybody," Dart said. "He was an amazing person."

Patty Santamaria, Estrada's former sister-in-law, said he was the pillar of his community. She said Estrada organized fundraisers and block parties, including the Christmas party Friday night, and fought hard to clean up his streets.

A procession of officers accompanied Estrada's body as it was transported from Loyola University Medical Center to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

Bellwood Police, Illinois State Police and the Cook County Sheriff's Department are investigating the shooting.

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