Fallen officer 'would do anything for anybody,' fiancee says

Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer Lance Whitaker was killed in a crash Tuesday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The fiancee of Lance Whitaker, the Jacksonville police officer killed in the line of duty Tuesday, is opening up to News4Jax, saying his loved ones are still coming to grips with his sudden death.

In an interview Wednesday, Shannon Lien said she is still processing the loss of Whitaker, whom she described as her best friend and a wonderful man with a "huge heart" whose looks belied his warmth.

“I don’t know how I’m going to move forward," she told News4Jax. "I don't know how any of us are going to move forward. But I know that he’s with us, he’s in heaven watching over all of us."

While she and Whitaker were together for three years, Lien said, the couple's history goes back much further. In fact, the two have known each other since they were teens attending Wolfson High School.

Lien, who lives in Texas, said she and Whitaker had been traveling back and forth on weekend to see each other. She said they hadn't set a wedding date, but planned to get hitched sometime next year.

She said Whitaker leaves behind a 14-year-old son, but he also was like a father to her three children. Besides family, she said, her fiance will be missed by the other lives he touched before his was taken.

"He looked like he would be kind of rough on the outside, but he would do anything for anybody," she said. "He was my best friend, the love of my life."

She had no idea just how many people in the community knew Whitaker, either directly or indirectly. As a result, she's been astonished by the outpouring of support she's received.

"I already knew how much people love Lance, but seeing it through the community has just been wonderful," said Lien. "He’s a wonderful man and he’s going to be missed so, so much."

Lien says funeral arrangements are still being made. In the meantime, those mourning Whitaker's loss are invited to contribute to a growing memorial outside Veterans Memorial Arena downtown.

According to the Fraternal Order of Police, donations in Whitaker's honor can be made by visiting any VyStar Credit Union location and contributing to the Officer Lance Whitaker Fund.