Family: Slain Cook County Sheriff's Officer Was the ‘Pillar of His Community'

Family and friends of a slain Cook County Sheriff's officer and former U.S. Marine say he died doing what he did best-- protecting his family and helping others.

Officer Cuauhtemoc Estrada, 50, was fatally shot outside of a family Christmas party at the VFW Bellwood Memorial Post 5081, on the 200 block of 30th Avenue, in west suburban Bellwood while trying to stop the armed robbery of his daughter's boyfriend.

Estrada's 19-year-old daughter, who witnessed the shooting, said she can't believe her father is gone.

"It just feels so unreal. I just want my dad," Christina Estrada said while wearing a police charm around her neck with her father's badge number on it. "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."

"He loved his kids and his family," said family friend Anaya Leonzo.

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.

"He was a good person and a good father," Christina Estrada said. "He was always there for us."

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Estrada was a former U.S. Marine and a 20-year veteran of the department.

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

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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