CHICOPEE, Mass. - On June 16, 2020, Chicopee Police Officer Angela Santiago passed away when she was involved in an off-duty motorcycle crash. It's been one year since her passing and the entire community still mourns her death, but also reflects on the positive spirit Officer Santiago was and the memories they shared with her.
"When thinking about Angela, it is hard not to smile," said Detective Donna Liszka, the public information officer with the Chicopee Police Department. "Her personality was so large. Her positivity, her charismatic energy and personality just engulfed you."
Since one year has gone by, other members of the department say it has been very hard.
"With COVID, it has been a very hard year for us and to lose an officer like Angela, who was representative of the community, was a great outreach to the community. She brought a lot of support," said Deputy Chief Lonny Dakin, who is currently serving as the interim chief. "We saw that at her vigil, that the community was a very mixed community. She reached everybody."
There is a rock garden and bench dedicated to Officer Santiago at Chicopee High School where she was a school resource officer. There are also two scholarships in her name and, in just a few weeks, the Boys & Girls Club of Chicopee will be breaking ground on new outdoor basketball court in Officer Santiago's memory. It was made possible from the support of her family and the community.
"(The court) is where we met Angela for the first time," said Jason Reed, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club. "It is where she interacted with the kids for the first time. So it is very fitting for us to be able to take a court that is in need of a nice, vibrant facelift and to be able to carry Angela's memory and bring some great color, excitement and vibrancy to the court because that is who Angela was."
It's clear, a year later, the impact Santiago made at the Boys & Girls Club and in the community, where stories and memories are shared about her all the time.
"She lives on in the Chicopee Police Department and will never be forgotten," Lizska said.
The police department also paid tribute to Santiago on Facebook with a video where officers shared their favorite memories with her. At 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Chicopee Police sent a message over dispatch and their radios to remember Officer Santiago and asked everyone to take a moment of silence.