TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Hundreds of law-enforcement officers from across Florida gathered Monday at the state Capitol to remember seven of their colleagues who died in the line of duty in 2016, along with three officers who died decades ago.
Among those remembered Monday was Nassau County Deputy Eric Oliver, who was killed while chasing an illegal immigrant on foot.
The 32-year-old was assisting a Border Patrol agent detaining illegal workers at a gas station when one of them ran away and Oliver and another deputy gave chase. Oliver, a Navy veteran and father, was struck by an SUV and killed.
The man Oliver was chasing, Francisco Portillo-Fuentes, was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by deportation to El Salvador.
Stephen Oliver was near tears recalling his older brother during the ceremony on Monday.
"He was always looking out for everybody else, except for himself," Stephen Oliver said. "You know, he wanted to do what was right.”
Monday's event, hosted by the Fraternal Order of Police, included a 21-gun salute, and helicopters flying above the Capitol courtyard.
Bagpipes played "Amazing Grace" while survivors placed roses on a flower-covered memorial to honor loved ones, as each name was read aloud.
Massachusetts State Police Sgt. John Kotfila lost his son, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy John Kotfila Jr., last year.
The deputy was killed in a head-on collision with a wrong-way driver near Tampa in March 2016.
The elder Kotfila said ceremonies like the one held Monday help families heal, while also serving as a morale booster for law enforcement.
"It's a hard day," he said. "It's a bittersweet day. The amount of respect that you are seeing now, it kind of makes it worthwhile being a police officer."
Monday's ceremony was the 35th-annual event honoring fallen officers.
So far in 2017, three law-enforcement officers have died in the line of duty.
Over the years, 792 police in Florida have died while on the job.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.