Column: A eulogy for Sheriff Alex Villanueva — you could have been so much more
We may never know many details about Sheriff Alex Villanueva, a man whose life was so full of promise and who ended up, so tragically, in the gutter so many years later.
At some point during his career, Villanueva, as an East Los Angeles cop, rose to become the highest-ranking Hispanic officer in the department and the one with the most power and authority within his jurisdiction.
Then, in 2016, he was arrested and faced federal charges for lying to federal agents.
A jury convicted him of bribery, obstruction of justice and other charges. He received two life sentences plus five years of supervised release — a far cry from the life he might have led if his career had not crumpled and fell apart.
We’ve been following the case, and it has been a wrenching experience for East L.A. residents and law-enforcement personnel. But Villanueva died last week at 74. Villanueva was one of the best cops I knew and I always admired him for his unyielding strength and conviction.
In the days and months leading up to his death, Villanueva was in good spirits and was always smiling. He was always smiling, and that was a true gift he was always given. A gentle soul, I would see Villanueva on the street and he always stopped to talk to me.
He was always so happy and he always encouraged me to chase my dreams. He encouraged me to do everything I set out to do in life: run for mayor, run for congress, become a federal prosecutor, even run for governor of California, among many other things.
He was always so happy
I first met Villanueva in 1986, when he came to work at the East L.A. station. I was in charge of training new cops. I hired him and he had his law degree from the University of Southern California. He was a very good cop, and he started out working