Tommy DeAlano spoke to Patrick Zamarripa the night before the police officer's murder. Every Wednesday for six months, Zamarripa, an officer with the Dallas Police Department, worked off duty at the Candleroom, DeAlano's Knox-Henderson bar. Last week, a gunman in downtown Dallas shot and killed Zamarripa, a 32-year-old Iraq War veteran and father of a two-year-old daughter, and four other officers.
"I had taken my family to the fair on July 4th and my four year old got deputized by these other officers. I was showing Pat the picture," says DeAlano. "I was like, 'Man, it's so cool how you just bridge the gap with these little deputized stickers.' And he goes, 'Yeah, man, I wish we could do more of that.'"
Hours before, footage of Philando Castile's death at the hands of a St. Paul police officer during a traffic stop had thrown the United States into turmoil, barely 24 hours after video of Alton Sterling being shot to death by Baton Rouge police surfaced.
DeAlano asked the officer about the shootings. "I was like, 'Man, how do you do your job? How do you transition in the community without just being afraid all the time that somebody's going to go nuts?'" DeAlano remembers. "And all he said was, 'You just keep your head down and you do your job and you hope everything comes out okay.' He was just so nonchalant about it."
The next day, Zamarripa was gone. "It's just so surreal. I can't stop thinking about that conversation."
The job at the Candleroom brought Zamarripa in contact with celebrities. Over the weekend, it emerged that Zamarripa had taken a picture with actor Cuba Gooding Jr. while working at the Candleroom last February. "I cried today when I heard that. I cried," Gooding said, when asked about the photo over the weekend by TMZ.
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Texas Rangers player Joey Gallo posted a photo on Instagram that he'd taken with Zamarripa and fellow Ranger Nomar Mazara earlier this year at the Candleroom, as well. "I'll never forget how kind and down to earth he was," Gallo wrote. "We ended up having a 15 minute conversation with him about sports."
DeAlano says that was typical of Zamarripa, who was a big fan of the Rangers and Dallas Cowboys. "I'm sure there are lots of different stereotypes about police officers, but he didn't fit any of those. He was just a good guy... He had this welcoming smile and was so soft spoken," DeAlano says. "We're blessed to have a lot of different high-profile folks come through here, and he was just like a little kid. If he saw a baseball player or basketball player, he'd be like, 'Hey man, can I get a picture with you?'"
Even though it was an off-duty gig, it wasn't a job without its potential dangers: In June, an armed guard was the first victim of a shooter who opened fire and killed 49 people inside Pulse night club in Orlando.
"We definitely spoke about it. Obviously, it was a concern for all club owners at the time," says DeAlano. "He brushed it off as a non-concern of his. Very confident guy, but in a responsible way. After his military and police experience, I think he just felt that you deal with the cards you're dealt and let your training and instincts handle things appropriately when needed. It was truly reassuring."
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As the tragedy unfolded in downtown Dallas last Thursday, DeAlano's thoughts quickly turned to Zamarripa and his partner, Josh Rodriguez, who worked the off duty shifts at Candleroom with him. "Friday morning I was trying to find out, because we know a lot of officers in town and have worked with a lot of them. I was like, 'Oh god, please don't let anybody be a mess,'" he says. Then he saw Zamarripa's name on a British news site. "I immediately texted him like, 'Please let this be a mistake' — and obviously I didn't get a response."
A couple months ago @nomazara26 and I were walking down the street in downtown Dallas. When an officer stopped us, Mazara and I immediately became nervous, "I know who you guys are" he said. "Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara, can I get a picture with you guys please?" It was definitely a first for me and Nomar to have an officer, a true hero, want to meet us. His name is Patrick Zamarripa, one of the officers killed in last nights shootings in Dallas. I'll never forget how kind and down to Earth he was. We ended up having a 15 minute conversation about sports with him. He was an avid Rangers fan. But more importantly a great person, and family man. Please keep Patrick, and all the officers affected and their families in our prayers today. #prayfordallas
The news hit hard at the Candleroom. "Shocked. Just saddened and shocked. Everybody was like no way," DeAlano says of the staff's reaction. In the days since, he's been in touch with Rodriguez and Zamarripa's family to help coordinate fundraisers, including a GoFundMe that was started over the weekend. "A lot of our regular and loyal customers have been reaching out, like, 'Are you doing a fundraiser? How can we get involved? What can we do to help?'"
Last night, DeAlano attended a vigil for the fallen DPD officers, and plans to attend Zamarripa's funeral, which will be open to the public. The two only knew each other a short time, but it had a profound effect on DeAlano. "He was a straight-up good guy," he says. "It's tough, man."