About 250 people filled the sanctuary of an east Charlotte church Sunday to remember the life of Josue Javier Diaz, 28, who was shot and killed by an undercover police detective Thursday.
Family, friends and neighbors gathered at Iglesia Adventista Del Septimo Dia Hispana Central de Charlotte on W.T. Harris Boulevard for the 90-minute service that began with music and a slide show of pictures from Diaz. They ranged from childhood – smiling as a baby, holding a baseball bat, wearing a white shirt with red suspenders – through adulthood, posing with his wife, Christina, and three children, Angel, Jadiel and Mariana.
The open casket – light gray with a white satin lining – was bedecked with white flowers and four heart-shaped white balloons. People came forward before and after the service to view his body.
Diaz died Thursday after an incident that started about 1:15 p.m. on Albemarle Road. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, the car in which Diaz and another person were riding side-swiped the undercover detective’s unmarked car. Police say Diaz got out of his car and fired his .22-caliber revolver at the officer. Investigators recovered the gun at the scene and identified a bullet hole and projectile in the unmarked vehicle the officer had been driving, police say.
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Diaz’s family, friends and others have contended that the police shooting was not justified. A friend who said he witnessed the incident has said Diaz was approaching the officer’s vehicle to apologize after his truck side-swiped the officer’s auto.
There was hardly a mention of the circumstances of Diaz’ death Sunday, only references to “the tragic way he died” and to “the way you left.” Friends who stood to speak about Diaz talked about his work ethic and how he “liked to see people smiling and happy.”
Senior minister Julio Flores delivered a eulogy that centered on the biblical story of Job and how he was unjustly treated during his life. His words were translated into English by Nate Fortunato, the church’s minister of music and family life.
“In life, many things may happen that we do not understand,” Fortunato said, quoting Flores. “In the biblical world, injustice is a constant.”
The pastor quoted from the Book of Job, and described Job as a strong family man who, like Diaz, experienced injustice and often felt that he wasn’t accepted by others. He assured everyone that Jesus “is the resurrection and the life” and “understands our suffering.”
“Death is not the last step in life,” Fortunato said, quoting Flores. “God is going to make a judgment. When we are resurrected, Jesus will decide who was just.”
Standing out in the mostly Hispanic crowd was Pat Cotham, Mecklenburg County commissioner-at-large, who said she was touched by Diaz’ story and came to show her respects.
She said she had spoken to a man who employed Diaz to install drywall. “He said Diaz was a very hard worker…and he was trying to turn his life around.”
Diaz was born in California and attended Independence High School in Charlotte before entering the construction trade with his father. “That’s the American dream,” Cotham said.
She said she has recognized the need to spend more time with the Hispanic community in east Charlotte.
“They’re our neighbors,” she said. “I need to do a better job of seeing them and listening to them and hearing them.”