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Sheriff's deputy fatally shot at family Christmas party trying to stop a robbery

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An Illinois sheriff's deputy was fatally shot in the chest when he attempted to thwart the robbery attempts of two men outside a Christmas party Friday night. The deputy, Cook County sheriff's investigator Cuauhtemoc Estrada, was off off duty and hosting the party. Those being robbed were his daughter and her boyfriend. And within moments, what was intended as a joyous family celebration became a scene of tragedy.

The Associated Press reported Dec. 21 that Estrada, 50, had stepped outside the Bellwood Veterans of Foreign Wars hall where the Christmas party was being held and noticed his daughter and her boyfriend, who were bringing food into the hall, were being accosted by two men wearing ski masks. But as he attempted to draw his weapon, Estrada was shot in the chest.

Although he was rushed to nearby Loyola University Medical Center, according to the Chicago Tribune, Estrada would later be pronounced dead.

Estrada was a former Marine, having served in Operation Desert Storm. As a police office with Cook County Sheriff's Office, he served nearly twenty years and was assigned to the department's electronic monitoring unit.

The sheriff's office is investigating the shooting.

Patty Santamaria, Estrada's former sister-in-law, told the Tribune that Cuauhtemoc Estrada, "fought hard to clean up his own streets,” protecting “not just his own family but his entire community.” She said he was still close to his ex-wife and her family (several members of which live in the Maywood area, a blue-collar neighborhood just over ten miles from downtown Chicago and just a couple miles from where Estrada was shot) and was always bringing the family morning coffee and donuts and starting their cars on cold winter mornings. Santamaria noted that Estrada liked to organize block parties, that the Christmas gathering was just one of the many events he planned each year for his family and friends.

According to the Associated Press, Cook County sheriff's spokeswoman Cara Smith said Estrada "died the same way he lives his life, which was protecting everyone he served." She said it a "tragic loss to his family and to this department."

Sheriff Tom Dart told the Tribune that everybody was "stunned" by the shooting, praising Estrada as a "caring, funny, thoughtful" person. Estrada, he said, “was an exceptional investigator, but an even better man who loved his family, his friends and his country," and "made this world a better place and will be missed by all whose lives he touched.”

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