Coach-turned-police officer eulogized as affable figure

A flag is raised as McAllen Police officers gather at McAllen Medical Center on Saturday, July 11, 2020, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Ismael Chavez’s smile lit up the room, whether it was in the classroom, locker room or office. The smile impacted people’s lives. His dedication, motivation and energy along with his famous smile, touched the hearts of others.

This is how fellow coaches described him.

Chavez and fellow officer Edelmiro Garza were both shot and killed Saturday afternoon while responding to a domestic disturbance call in McAllen. Both men worked for the McAllen Police Department. Garza had more than eight years of experience as an officer, while Chavez had more than two.

Before Chavez took the role of protecting and serving, he was employed at Weslaco East High School as a science teacher for seven years and football coach for three years.

“It is tragic; this is tragic,” Weslaco East head football coach Michael Burget said. “It is such a shame. He always had a huge smile on his face every day.”

Burget knew Chavez when the former was the first assistant coach and the latter worked as the freshman football coach.

“He was always very positive and looked forward into going to the field,” Burget said. “You are talking about a guy who always showed up on time. We did not have to go out looking for him. He always thought of the kids and what he can do to help them improve both in the classroom and on the field.”

Chavez brought his football experience from playing on the Edinburg High football team. With limited coaching experience, Chavez believed he could take over a team and share his skills and abilities with students and student-athletes.

Chavez played on the Edinburg High football team when it advanced to the 1999 state semifinals under then-head coach Robert Vela.

“He was an all-around good man and good teammate,” former player and teammate Hector Bustos said. “He was a senior when I was a junior and he was always there for everyone. It does not surprise me that he ended up being a cop, with his personality of wanting to help others, being there for people and helping them with whatever situation they had. It made sense to me that he chose that path. He was a great player as well, never gave up and worked hard when it came to games and practices — he was very competitive.”

His competitive nature led Chavez into mixed martial arts. He competed in many fighting events and trained with former classmates Adrian Torres, Abram Torres, Jaime Hinojosa and Frank Treviño, who helped him build confidence.

“We trained together and competed in many events in Monterrey,” former teammate and friend Frank Treviño said. “We always would pick on him and call him the laziest on the team because we knew he was always the hardest working one and wanted to bug him about it. He did not give up on anything, whether it was in the ring or out of the ring. He was just an overall positive person.”

The man of many skills touched people throughout the community and left a hole among those mourning over his death.

“I remember when he first stumbled upon us in the locker room,” Weslaco East head girls soccer coach Rolando Ramos said. “He showed interest in coaching with us and we took him in. All I can remember is him always having a smile on his face every time he came to practice.”

Chavez was a very warm-hearted man that just wanted the best for every student, Ramos added.

“He cared so much about his job,” Ramos said. “His students were his priorities, but everyone knew that his heart was to serve his community. His dream was to always be a cop.”

After being employed with Weslaco East High School for seven years, Chavez made his dream a reality and became a police officer.

Ramos said that Chavez always made sure that people knew he loved his job and loved serving his community, Ramos said.

“I saw him just a few months back at a restaurant in McAllen,” Ramos said. “He was telling me how much he loves his job and the adrenaline he always gets being on the field. He loved working as a cop, he loved helping others.”

Chavez was known as an overall athlete who always wanted more for himself and wanted to help others.

“There is nothing negative to say about Chavez,” Weslaco East first assistant coach Rene Guzman said. “He coached my son when my son was a freshman and Chavez was also my son’s teacher.”

Guzman was the defensive line coach for Weslaco East then became defensive coordinator in the last year before Chavez pursued his police career.

Chavez and Guzman worked together on the freshmen football team.

“Such a positive person with the attitude of never giving up,” Guzman said.

“I want everyone to know that he was just honestly a great man, both officers, Chavez and Garza did not deserve any of this, may they both rest in peace,” Bustos said.

“Coach Chavez was a real genuine person – almost to a fault,” Ramos said.