Lompoc’s new chief of police reflected after his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday night on the shooting of an innocent teen in Lompoc this week.
Joseph Mariani said many factors and reasons played into him making the decision to lead the department but Monday night, he realized why he chose to do it.
“At approximately 8 p.m., I responded to a tragic incident and learned that one of the victims in a shooting had been fatally wounded. A 17-year-old girl full of promise whose life was ended way too soon. While at the scene, I saw members of our police department and fire department working diligently and tenaciously to conduct a thorough investigation in one of those situations that reflects the worst of humanity, but at the same time, it reflected the best,” Mariani said.
The girl was shot when she stepped outside an apartment on the south end of town and was hit by bullets intended for a known gang member, according to police. No arrests have been made.
“Every day I get reminded of what it means to serve. I’m so proud of them,” Mariani said about his fellow officers, many of whom he says responded to the shooting from home. “I commit myself to doing the best to making this the safest city possible.”
The new chief has been with the Lompoc Police Department since coming out of retirement in September of 2014. Before that, he spent 34 years with the Los Angeles Police Department.
He takes over for Pat Walsh, who announced in January he would be leaving the department.
“For the last three-and-a-half years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with one of the finest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of serving with,” Mariani said. “A man who gave up his life daily, had a sense of compassion like I’ve never seen before. So I want to thank Pat Walsh because he made this possible.”
Mariani’s first day on the job was Friday, March 1. He’s the city’s first Hispanic and bilingual police chief.