- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - When a stray bullet from a nearby drive-by shooting penetrated Victor Garcia’s home in north Jonesboro and traveled through the entire house, he knew he wanted to do something to make his neighborhood safer for his family and neighbors.

The 25-year-old Hispanic police recruit decided not long after that shooting he could help out his neighborhood by becoming a police officer in Jonesboro.

“The bullet went all the way through my house,” he told the Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1z3y6q8 ). “I told myself I’ve got to change something. I need to do something.”

And he’d always considered a career as an officer since his time at the then Philadelphia Elementary School (currently Math and Science magnet school). He remembered spending time with the school resource officer and wanting to learn more about the job.

So he did. Earlier this year, he signed up to participate in the Jonesboro Police Department’s training program, and he just finished his first week of instruction.

But he wasn’t always a Jonesboro native. He was born and spent an early portion of his life in Mexico.

Garcia is originally from Mante, Mexico, which is about five hours south of the country’s border with the United States.

After living there a few months, his family moved to California for about five years before moving back to their home country.

He spent the next four years of his life in a small town he compared to the size of Cash.

“We lived on the outskirts of a small city,” Garcia said. “Everyone knew everyone.”

As he was young when his family lived in Mexico, he didn’t have a massive cache of memories of his time outside the U.S. But he did remember spending leisure time with fellow children in his community.

“It was fun,” he said. “I used to play with the neighborhood kids outside. We ran and played.”

Eventually, his family would leave their hometown and moved to Houston, Texas, where they lived for two years.

His parents would eventually tire of the big city life, and both yearned to take their five sons to a smaller community that was inundated with far less crime than Houston or California.

In 1998, the family left their Texas home and moved to North Jonesboro. Garcia said his parents were concerned about increasing drug and gang activity in large cities and wanted their kids to have no part of the growing crime rate.

Both parents felt Jonesboro was the appropriate choice to make.

“My parents wanted to live in a calm city,” he said. “They didn’t want us around dangerous crime.”

Garcia is the middle child out of a group of five sons. He said when growing up he and his siblings exhibited the typical sibling rivalry typically found in multi-children homes.

“It was good, but at the same time it was difficult,” he said.

After moving to Jonesboro, Garcia eventually took the U.S. citizenship test and became a full-fledged American citizen.

He said the process wasn’t too difficult. The hardest portion of it was learning U.S. history. After numerous hours of study, Garcia said he came to a point where he knew more about history than some of his American co-workers born and raised in the country.

“Like anything new, I was nervous,” he said. “But it was good.”

He said one of his main goals once he becomes a certified Jonesboro officer is to help bridge the gap between the Hispanic community in the city and local police.

Seeing the community first-hand, Garcia said he sees a lot of distrust in the Hispanic community toward any government official, including police. But that feeling can be dangerous, Garcia explained, because it could prevent future victims from calling the police in an emergency. He wants those fears to disappear.

“I want them to have someone to look to when needed,” he said. “I want to help my community.”

Garcia’s next step after his current training sessions is to attend the police academy for 13 weeks, beginning Jan. 19. He said he’s ready, but wary.

“I’m nervous,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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