AUBURN- A national audience has sat riveted watching the unfolding tragedy of the murder of police officer Ronald Tarentino. Tarentino, an officer out of Auburn, was slain during a routine traffic stop on Sunday. The tragedy has been felt deeply in law enforcement across the country, but it strikes a particular chord in Tewksbury. Tarentino grew up in Tewksbury, graduating from the High School in 1991, and he still has family in town.
Tarentino, 42, was shot after pulling over an SUV driven by Jorge Zambrano. Zambrano, a repeat offender with charges to his name including drug trafficking and assault and battery, had been pulled over driving the same car only a week beforehand. Zambrano was arrested without incident, and charged for attaching plates, operating with a revoked license and operating an unregistered motor vehicle.
It remains unclear why Zambrano chose to open fire on Tarentino on that Sunday morning. Zambrano was killed after ambushing police officers in his home at Oxford.
While they wait for answers, those who knew and worked with Tarentino struggle to process the weight of their grief.
"You never think it's going to happen to you, it hits you like a sledgehammer. It's just not fair," Sharon Tarentino, Ronald’s mother and Tewksbury-resident, told the Associated Press. "He was our first born. His kids are older but they are still going to grow up without their father, and Tricia [Ronald’s wife] without her husband."
Mass displays of grief and honor have risen up in the wake of Tarentino’s death, with large crowds gathering for memorial services. A huge outpouring of citizens waited in informal vigil for Tarentino’s body to arrive at the funeral home in Leicester.
“Words can not adequately express our Department’s appreciation for the outpouring of support that we have received after the tragic loss of Officer Tarentino,” read the official Facebook message from the Auburn Police Department.
Tarentino is the second police officer in Massachusetts to be killed while on duty this year.
"I just wish people had a little bit more respect for what they do — nobody has respect for them anymore," Sharon Tarentino told the Boston Herald, referring to police officers.
Officials said that Tarentino was shot in the back. Chief Andrew Sluckis Jr. said Tuesday that Zambrano got off five shots and Tarentino did not return fire.
Sluckis says one bullet struck Tarentino's body armor, while one .45 caliber bullet entered the space between his gun belt and his bulletproof vest on the lower left of his back.
A memorial now decorates the scene of the crime, flowers and flags painting the side of the road.
Schools and other municipal buildings across the state flew flags at half-mast in memory of Tarentino.
Bridges in Worcester and Shrewsbury illuminated the night with blue lights in tribute to Tarentino’s sacrifice.
“In the days, months and years ahead, the Auburn Police Department will continue to support the Tarentino family in every way possible,” Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis said. “I ask the public to keep them in your prayers tonight and every night.”