Loved ones and colleagues took the altar at Westside Baptist Church and shared emotional goodbyes as a gathering of about 4,000 attended the funeral of a fallen St. Lucie County deputy.
Sgt. Gary Morales, the first St. Lucie County deputy to die in the line of duty in nearly 100 years, was shot to death Thursday during a traffic stop.
Morales, 35, was a decorated deputy who was remembered as a loving husband and doting father of two young girls named Brooklyn and Jordan, as well as a community-minded hero who gave his time to local students.
"To Brooklyn and Jordan, every day, your dad told us how much he loved you," St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said a the funeral service.
Mascara spoke glowingly of Morales' 13-year career with the force, pausing for a moment during the ovation he received after announcing the department's training facility will be renamed the Gary Morales Training Complex.
"The color of the uniform doesn't matter, nor does the venue of the service, because (law-enforcement heroes) are all true heroes," Mascara said. "They protect us from evil, they face danger every day to keep us safe. With Gary's loss, we have lost a true hero."
A public viewing began at 10 a.m. before the funeral service started at noon. The ceremony lasted at least 90 minutes before hundreds of law-enforcement vehicles began to lead the 20-plus-mile journey to Palm City.
The internment ended shortly before 5 p.m., following a 21-gun salute, a rendition of "Taps" and a flyover by six sheriff's helicopters.
All this happened Monday as Eriese Tisdale sat in jail without bond, accused of shooting the deputy three times during a traffic stop in Fort Pierce on Thursday. Tisdale said he shot Morales in self-defense, but another deputy said that when he arrived as backup, Tisdale was firing at Morales, who still hadn't even gotten out of his cruiser.