Those who knew Kent Police Officer Diego Moreno soon learned about a simple, two-word quote he liked to say:
Moreno lived life with so much energy, enthusiasm and compassion that his family and friends chose those two words to print on his memorial service program handed out to an estimated 3,300 people Tuesday afternoon at the accesso ShoWare Center.
A crowd that included hundreds of uniformed officers who traveled to town to honor Moreno – killed in the line of duty on July 22 when he was struck by a fellow officer’s vehicle during a pursuit that began after shots were fired at a nearby bar parking lot.
A procession from Emerald Downs in Auburn to the ShoWare Center drew folks along Fourth Avenue in Kent to watch as motorcycle officers, a bagpipe band and police and vehicles headed down the street. Outside the ShoWare, officers stood at attention as the Moreno family arrived along West James Street and walked into the arena to celebrate the life of Diego Moreno.
“Diego lived his life to the fullest as a son, a brother, a husband, a dad, a police officer,” Chaplain Pat Ellis said at the service. “He lived it and his life became the very example of what it meant to die living.”
Moreno, of Auburn, died just five days after turning 35. His survivors include his wife, two young children, his mother, his brother and two sisters.
“Serving with compassion came natural to him and became evident with the assignments he chose,” Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla said about the eight-year veteran of the force. “He chose assignments to put him in position to care for and help people.”
Moreno worked as a field training officer, a recruiting officer and a hostage negotiator. He earned three life-saving medals for saving a drowning child, rescuing an elderly woman from a fire and saving a woman from a drug overdose.
“He did more in eight years than most of us do in 20,” Padilla said.
Moreno is only the second Kent Police officer to die in the line of duty. Town Marshal Harry Miller died in 1908 after a shootout with five men who had robbed a man.
Born in Venezuela
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Moreno moved with his family at age 16 to the United States. He became a U.S. citizen in high school. He attended Columbia Basin College in Pasco and graduated from Washington State University in Pullman. The memorial service decorations on the ShoWare stage included a WSU college football game day flag sent by school officials to the Kent Police.
The vigor Moreno displayed began as a child.
Lizzie Lee, his mother, told the audience that Moreno was a loud kid – always looking to make noise.
“In the sixth grade, his teacher read anonymous answers from her students after she asked them to write down what their parents would complain about them,” Lee said. “The teacher wanted the parents to guess. She goes, ‘I make too much noise.’ We knew that was his.”
Matt Mullennix worked with Moreno at the Kent Police Department before he recently left the department to become a firefighter. They became close friends. It didn’t take long for Mullennix to find out about Moreno’s spirit.
“Diego lived his life at 1,000 mph with such a fierce intensity I’ve never seen anything like it, I don’t know how he did it,” Mullennix said. “He would walk into the break room at work and whether you knew this man for 10 years or 10 seconds, he would immediately infect everybody in that room with that energy.”
Moreno would even joke with fellow officers by all of a sudden sitting on their lap to make them uncomfortable.
“The energy he left in a room would stay there long after he was gone,” Mullennix said.
Fun at home
Shelly Morneo didn’t see her husband’s enthusiasm at work, but she saw it at home.
“It’s easy to see Diego loved police work,” Moreno said near the end of the service after others had spoken. “There is one thing he loved more and that was being a daddy.”
Because Diego Moreno worked a late shift, he spent days with his children. Shelly Moreno said she would get Instagram messages at work from her husband that would include such activities as he and the children singing in the car. He took his daughter for a pedicure in one of his final moments with her.
“His childlike enthusiasm for life was contagious,” Shelly Moreno said. “When playing sidewalk chalk, he wouldn’t just draw pictures. He would turn our dog into a striped zebra.”
That playful attitude drew the couple close.
“Diego’s ability to play was unmatched,” Shelly Moreno said. “He was wild and loud and persistent. Without a doubt, he was my man-child and he was well loved for it.”
A video/slide show at the service displayed Moreno’s love for life. Photos celebrating, traveling and simply enjoying life with his wife, children and friends.
On the job
Earlier in the service, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph described Moreno’s love for his job.
“Officer Moreno wore his badge with grace and honor,” Ralph said. “He did the job he loved every day until that job took him from us. A life ended too early, an amazing career cut short and taken from a family who loved and adored him
“Officer Moreno was more than a public servant, more than a police officer, he was our hero. It has been said it is not how an officer died that makes them a hero, but how they lived.”
Ralph watched how Moreno lived the afternoon before his death. Chief Padilla threw a barbecue for the department at the mayor’s house. A way to show appreciation for the officers outside of their normal workplace.
“I watched Diego running around the yard playing with his kids, loving his wife and spreading that infectious smile to officers and family members,” she said.
The mayor also saw something else.
“The last time Diego kissed Shelly was in my yard,” Ralph said. “She kissed him goodbye lots of times, but had no idea this would be the last one.”
Ralph promised the city of Kent will always be there for Moreno’s family.
“I want them to know the love and support that they get from this community will never fade,” she said. “You will always be a part of the Kent family and we ask to be a part of yours.”
Ralph added she knows what Moreno is doing now.