CHICAGO — The Thanksgiving holidays are a time for family, and for the relatives of Officer Samuel Jimenez, the days since he was killed in the line of duty have been beyond difficult.
"Even though he was a cousin to us he always felt closer like a brother. He was pretty much the brother I never had," said Jimenez's cousin Cecilia Ruiz.
They remember him as the life of the party, someone who always wanted to make people smile and feel protected. From a young age, Samuel Jimenez knew he wanted to go into law enforcement.
"He wanted to make the world a better place," Ruiz said. "The fact he succeeded at what he wanted to do, it overwhelmed him with joy."
Officer Jimenez graduated from Foreman High School on the city's Northwest Side 10 years ago. He married his high school sweetheart, and they started a family. Then in 2017, he took the oath to serve and protect when he joined the Chicago Police Department.
That oath was put to the test Monday afternoon when officers reported shots fired at Mercy Hospital, and Jimenez answered the call. Ruiz said she was working at Walgreens when she got the news he was killed.
"On my phone I received a text from my friend and she said, 'I'm so sorry,' I suddenly felt a horrible twisted feeling in my stomach that something wasn't right," Ruiz said.
Ruiz called her mother, who confirmed he had been killed in the line of duty. Jimenez was shot during an exchange of gunfire with Juan Lopez, who also shot and killed his ex-fiancé, Dr. Tamara O'Neal, and pharmacy resident Dayna Less.
"The family is devastated," Ruiz said. "I'm trying the best to be the backbone for my mother and my sister like Sammy was for everyone else."
The last few days have been beyond difficult for his family, as they try to remember the good times.
"The number one thing I had with him no one had was we had the same birthday. And we would always text each other; it was like a contest, who would say 'happy birthday' to each other first," his cousin Nina Salgado said.
This Thanksgiving, even at a time when it's hard to find things to be thankful for, the family is sharing its gratitude.
"Even though our family is broken from this heavy loss, at the end we know he got to do what he wanted to do," Ruiz said. "I'm thankful he was able to protect those who survived the shooting, because at the end of the day those people get to enjoy another day, another year of their life with their loved ones."
Foreman High School will be hosting a remembrance organized by friends on Saturday morning. A wake for Officer Jimenez is planned for Sunday, followed by his funeral Monday.