YULEE, Fla - A new monument honoring Nassau County Deputy Eric Oliver was unveiled Wednesday, one year after Oliver was killed in the line of duty.
The monument is in front of the Gate gas station in Yulee, near where Oliver was killed when he was hit by an SUV as he chased an illegal immigrant across State Road 200 after helping with a Border Patrol stop.
The mason who created the memorial said it was an honor to have been chosen for the task, and he now feels a deep connection with the fallen deputy.
"Something about him is inside of me, and it just really brings out tears," Ted Richardson said. "I can just sometimes say his name and start crying."
Oliver’s tragic death brought together many in the Nassau County community, and hundreds gathered Wednesday, holding flags high as they remembered a fallen deputy.
"This is a tragedy you never want to see happen. But when it does, the first responder community comes together because we are all a family," said Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper. "We all work together every day, and when one passes away, it -- there’s a lot of us apart. So it’s time for us to come together."
Oliver's family stood together during the emotional unveiling ceremony.
"It’s beautiful, and it’s just honoring. It will be there forever, and I think it just represents our law-enforcement community and the sacrifices they make," Oliver's mom, Sharon Oliver, said.
Doug Oliver, the deputy's father, said the past year has been difficult, but he is humbled that his son will never be forgotten.
"There was a purpose behind it," he said. "The good Lord needed another angel to take home."
The man Oliver was after, Francisco Portillo-Fuentes, a native of El Salvador, was deported after his arrest. It was the third time he was deported, and he would face more jail time if found again in the United States. Oliver worked for the Nassau County Sheriff’s office for seven years. His law enforcement partner spoke to News4Jax earlier this year.
"If you could go back and replay it over again, he’d have done it the same way. You see somebody run, you’re doing your job," Garth Holton said.
Oliver was honored at his agency’s fallen officer award ceremony in May.
"I know his friends aren't going to forget him," Doug Oliver said. "I know law enforcement isn’t going to forget him. He’s part of an elite family now."
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