Luis Guerrero wanted to wear a badge.
The 17-year-old knew to become an officer that meant working hard in school and staying active in his community.
For Guerrero, it also meant having brain surgery.
His plans were tragically cut short after a seven-month battle to recover from the surgery expected to help him realize his dream.
Guerrero died Sunday night.
At age 11, he was diagnosed with a congenital brain condition that causes seizures.
The teen could go months without any seizures, then be plagued with several in a day, landing him in the hospital, said his sister Nancy Dominguez, 24.
Guerrero didn’t let it interfere with his life, though.
If a seizure struck in the morning, as they often did, he insisted on attending school, especially if he had an exam that day.
He stayed active in his church — always volunteering to lead youth groups, coach children on their lines for the Christmas program and play soccer with orphans in Mexico.
“He was just a joyful person who loved serving others,” Dominguez said.
As a child, Guerrero wanted to be a neurosurgeon to fix problems of the brain like the kind he had.
He was determined to find a way to stop the seizures he so often endured.
But after befriending a security guard at his high school, Whittier Christian in La Habra, he set his heart on a new career path — becoming a law enforcement officer.
“I think that relationship really changed him,” Dominguez said. “He had such a heart for people, especially those who are in need in some way or victims of injustice.”
Guerrero told his family he wanted to be an officer, but specifically, he wanted to join La Habra PD.
He decided he would apply for the department’s Explorer program with the hope it would prepare him for one day being a sworn officer.
His seizure disorder threatened his goal, along with other simple wants of a typical teenager.
Guerrero wanted to get his license and be able to hang out with friends without his mother and two sisters worrying or checking up on him.
He wanted his independence and doctors said they might be able to give it to him.
Doctors found a small mass on Guerrero’s brain and deduced the growth may be the cause of his seizures.
If they removed it, there was a chance Guerrero could be seizure-free.
“He was really excited about having surgery,” Dominguez said. “There was no hesitation, no nervousness or fear.
“He was just hoping for a normal life. I think he just felt the brain condition was a burden.”
Guerrero underwent surgery on March 26 and, while doctors removed the mass, an artery tore causing massive brain bleeding, his sister said.
The 17-year-old later suffered a stroke while in recovery.
Guerrero was in an induced coma for two months because doctors wanted as little brain activity as possible to encourage healing, Dominguez said.
When he woke, things seemed better, his sister said.
Guerrero was aware and could even move some of his extremities.
Then, just last month, as doctors were removing a cranial drain that was inserted to get rid of excess fluid, the part of the brain responsible for speech and movement was damaged.
Guerrero couldn’t speak or respond to any stimulus, Dominguez said.
“That changed everything,” she said.
When Guerrero’s story made its way back to La Habra PD members of the department immediately wanted to help.
About two weeks ago, several civilian and sworn employees visited Guerrero and his family in the hospital.
The La Habra Police Association presented a card with well wishes and a gift card to Target.
Employees at La Habra PD then launched a department-wide fundraiser to collect donations for Guerrero and his family.
Grow a Beard, Change Lives encourages LHPD employees to make a donation and grow a beard in the month of November.
Female employees who donate will get to participate in “Jeans Friday” and wear denim on the last day of their work week.
LHPD will continue their plan to raise money for the teen’s family in memory of Guerrero.
“When we visited him, we were deeply impacted by Luis’ story and touched by his courageous spirit,” said Wendy Guandique, LHPD Secretary to the Chief. “We are deeply saddened by the news.”
Guandique said La Habra PD is encouraging the community to give through Crowd Rise and they are also challenging city employees and other Orange County police associations to participate.
The campaign Heroes for a Warrior, posted on the department’s Facebook page, has raised nearly $3,000 so far.
“We are so grateful,” Dominguez said of LHPD’s efforts. “We never even thought about doing anything like this so it has been really amazing and a blessing to see people taking part.”
To donate visit: https://www.crowdrise.com/heroesforawarriorthe/fundraiser/wendyguandique