But then Pedrozo died Aug. 25 after falling ill at his Silver Spring home. Family members say he thought he had bronchitis, until he collapsed with severe stomach pains and suffered two heart attacks in an emergency room.
Now Pedrozo’s family is faced with the unexpected death of a 37-year-old husband, father and son; the force is contending with the loss of a well-regarded officer and former Marine; and the community he patrolled is missing a familiar presence.
Grieving relatives, police commanders and the District’s mayor now await word from Maryland’s medical examiner on whether Pedrozo’s death can be linked to complications from the April 20, 2007, stabbing.
The ruling, expected in four to six weeks, has implications beyond whether another name will be etched onto memorial walls. It also has possible ramifications for the man convicted in the attack and for the benefits the family will receive — all of which is on the minds of those left behind.
“Oh my God, I just want to know,” said his 68-year-old mother, Candida Estela Pedrozo, who emigrated from Paraguay in 1969, her eyes filling with tears during a recent visit with her daughter-in-law. “I hope soon. Until then, we can’t sleep.”
Pedrozo’s wife, Lorena, said that since he was a young boy growing up in Virginia, “he said he wanted to be a police officer. He said he wanted to help people. I always begged him not to do it. I was scared. But it’s what he wanted. He said nothing is going to happen to him.”
If his death is ruled a homicide, Oscar Pedrozo would be the 116th D.C. officer to have died in the line of duty since the department was formed in 1861 and the first to have been killed as a result of violence since 2004. The five officers who have died since then were killed in car accidents or succumbed to duty-related illnesses or heart attacks.
Prosecutors say a finding of homicide could bring a murder charge against the attacker, who is serving an eight-year sentence for aggravated assault while armed. It also makes the Pedrozo family eligible for a significant boost in benefits — a possible $50,000 lump sum payment and the officer’s full salary paid to his wife each month.
“If it does turn out the death is duty related, we will do everything we possibly can to make sure his family gets all the benefits they deserve,” said Pedro Ribeiro, spokesman for D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who knew the officer and attended his funeral. “And we’ll be able to keep the attacker locked up for a long, long time.”
If Pedrozo died of natural causes, his widow gets about 40 percent of her husband’s salary. The attacker, Jose Villalta, 34, who lived in Columbia Heights not far from where the stabbing occurred, is scheduled to leave a medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Va., in June 2014.