Tara O’Sullivan, a young police officer and Sacramento State graduate who was fatally shot last week while helping a woman flee domestic violence, left a powerful legacy, speakers at a candlelight vigil on campus said on the evening of Sunday, June 23, 2019.
She was a beloved daughter and sister; someone who would drop everything to help a friend in need; a star police recruit; and a hard worker who uplifted everyone around her, friends and acquaintances said at the event.
Hundreds of people, including O’Sullivan’s parents and other relatives, President Robert S. Nelsen and other members of the Sac State community, Mayor Darrell Steinberg and uniformed police officers from around the state attended the vigil at the University’s outdoor Studio Theatre.
“We are here tonight to celebrate our sister, our daughter, our friend, our officer, our Sac State grad, Tara O’Sullivan,” Nelsen told the crowd. He called O’Sullivan “the epitome of what we want all of our officers to be.”
O’Sullivan, 26, graduated from Sac State in Fall 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Child Development. She was one of the first four students to complete the University’s groundbreaking Law Enforcement Candidate Scholars (LECS) program. While a student, she worked as a server at the campus restaurant Epicure. Soon after graduation, she entered the Sacramento Police Academy.
The University is establishing a scholarship in O’Sullivan’s name. To support the Tara O’Sullivan LECS Legacy Scholarship, go to the dedicated page on the University website.
O’Sullivan’s name also will be affixed to a seat in the University's new Ernest T. Tschannen Science Complex, opening this fall. University Enterprises Inc., Sac State’s authorized commercial-services auxiliary, will donate $1,000 for the seat naming.
“Tara will never, ever be forgotten by the people of Sacramento,” Steinberg said.
O’Sullivan was fatally shot Wednesday, June 19, while responding with other Sacramento Police officers to a report of domestic abuse. She was helping a woman, the alleged abuse victim, remove belongings from the garage of her North Sacramento home when a man holed up in the home and possessing multiple weapons opened fire, mortally wounding O'Sullivan.
Her memorial service is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Roseville.
During Sunday’s vigil on a warm evening at Sac State, blue ribbons decorated trees and lamp posts as officers representing cities from the region and beyond gathered to honor O’Sullivan, who grew up in the East Bay. Family members wore shirts imprinted with the word “Trust” and decorated with a police shield.
Guests held burning candles as they shared thoughts and memories about O’Sullivan.
Longtime friends and newer acquaintances talked about O’Sullivan’s grit, strength and heart, and her dedication to public service. Some people who attended the vigil never knew her but wanted to pay respects to her nonetheless.
Vigil attendee Elfi Zarzu said she and her children are survivors of domestic abuse. “When we went through it, I so appreciated the help and support of police officers,” she said, standing with her three youngsters. “We are here today because of them. We need to unite and help law enforcement.”
The family’s experience spurred her son, now 13, to aspire to be a police officer, Zarzu said.
O’Sullivan’s family members comforted one another and dabbed tears at times during Sunday’s ceremony.
“Thank you for loaning her to me for four years,” Nelsen addressing O’Sullivan’s parents, Denis and Kelley O’Sullivan. “Thank you for raising a true hero.” – Cynthia Hubert