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Claremont holds vigil for slain ranger

Friends and family paid tribute to fallen Claremont park ranger Mark Manlapaz on Thursday, calling him a great friend and a hard worker.

Over one hundred people convened at Lewis Park Thursday to pay tribute to Mr. Manlapaz, the park ranger and Cal Poly Pomona security officer who was brutally murdered on the afternoon of Friday, June 29.

The tribute was full of friends, family and co-workers who gathered to share stories and express condolences.

City Manager Tara Schultz shared she had just recently spent two hours roaming the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park with Mr. Manlapaz. He took her on a tour of the park, talking about the job and the people he met in the three years he worked there.

At one point, during the tour, he stopped to save a snake that was dangerously close to getting run over by his truck.

“That’s the kind of person Mark was,” Ms. Schultz said.

Cal Poly Pomona Police Chief Dario Robinson said the CPP community was “completely saddened and shocked” by Mr. Manlapaz’s passing. Mr. Manlapaz had worked with Cal Poly for 16 years, earning two degrees there along the way.

Chief Robinson also paid tribute to Mr. Manlapaz’s mother, Carmelina Curtis, and told a touching story of how he had to deliver the news of her son’s death. “All she did was try to console me and tell me it was okay. All she did was say there was a bigger plan for Mark,” he said.

“Mark was an amazing person,” the chief later said.  “If he was here today, he would be the first person to give me a hug to console me.”

Some details about Mr. Manlapaz’s murder are still unknown. According to police, Mr. Manlapaz was sitting in his work truck around 4:30 p.m. when an unnamed assailant stabbed him repeatedly. A co-worker found his body.

The suspect was later found in a rural part of campus, where he was shot and killed by police. His name had not been released as of Thursday.

Much of the tribute was set aside for mourners to emerge from the audience and speak at the podium.

Jayson Inong had been Mr. Manlapaz’s friend for 22 years. They immigrated from the Philippines at the same time, and forged a bond that included Mr. Manlapaz being the best man at Mr. Inong’s wedding and Mr. Manlapaz introducing Mr. Inong to his church, High Desert Church in Victorville.

“I’m honored to say he was my best friend,” Mr. Inong said. “He was somebody you could trust, somebody you could rely on.”

Charlie Gale, who lives adjacent to the Wilderness Park, remembered Mr.Manlapaz through their frequent interactions in and around the park.

“I want to keep it simple; I’m going to miss my neighbor,” Mr. Gale said. “Thank you, Mark.”

Many of Mr. Manlapaz’s co-workers both at Cal Poly and the Wilderness Park shared stories of how he impacted their lives through his work ethic and good nature. One former co-worker talked about how Mr. Manlapaz helped her with her homework, while another shared a story about how he helped her to her car during a medical emergency.

Larry Maass, a fellow Claremont park ranger, shared a story of the last time he interacted with Mr. Manlapaz—when he introduced Mr. Maass to a Filipino Mango.

“Every time I will eat one, I will think of Mark,” Mr. Maass said.

In all, 21 people spoke at the vigil about Mr. Manlapaz.

At the end of the vigil, friends and family released 23 green balloons into the gusty Claremont sky to symbolize his upcoming birthday, July 23. He would have been 37 years old.

Ms. Curtis was fighting through tears as family members consoled her after the vigil.

“He was a good son, a wonderful child,” Ms. Curtis said. “I am very proud of him for all of the impact he had on these people.” 

A memorial service for Mr. Manlapaz will take place on July 17 at 2 p.m. at High Desert Church in Victorville.

Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com