Sgt. Morales' laid to rest

FORT PIERCE, FL (WFLX) - Thousands of officers from around the state, as well as members of the public, paid their respects to Sgt. Gary Morales Monday. More than 3,000 vehicles were in the funeral procession.

UPDATE, MON 4 PM: Family, friends and fellow law enforcement officers remembered a loving man who wanted to help his community in a 90-minute service.

Everyone at the funeral, being held at Westside Baptist Church in Fort Pierce, stood as the family entered the church.

Port St. Lucie police Lt. Ronald Caudell, who was shot in the leg the same morning that Morales was killed during a traffic stop, walked into the church on crutches.

The funeral for Morales will be the biggest ceremony held at Westside Baptist Church, said the church's pastor Dale Ingersoll.

People lined outside Westside Baptist Church in Fort Pierce to see the body of Sgt. Gary Morales during his funeral.

He laid in an open casket, dressed in his St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office uniform. A slide show with pictures of him in service and of his youth was shown on screens.

About 700 people watched the funeral on a screen in an adjacent room almost filled to its capacity. Most people in there were law enforcement officers from St. Lucie to Miami Dade Counties.

Members of the Defenders, a national law enforcement motorcycle club, were also present . Some came from as far as Miami to the funeral to support Morales' family.

"I'm not shocked (by Morales' death). As unfortunate as it is, you can't be shocked," said Member Jay Ratchet, a law enforcement officer from Broward County.

During the funeral service, St. Lucie Sheriff Ken Mascara spoke directly to Morales' daughters and said,"He's going to be watching over you every day."

"Gary certainly lived for his job... He's our guardian angel now." said Lt. Kevin Dietrich.

About 50 members of law enforcement and fire agencies gathered to play pipes and drums to honor Sgt. Gary Morales.

It's something family "will remember and cherish forever and that's what it's all about," Cpl. Kelly Dobson on pipe/drum salute.

In anticipation of the procession, people were already waiting at Okeechobee Road at 12:30 p.m. Monday to express support of law enforcement and Morales. "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood was playing from an SUV's speakers.

Many patrol cars from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office have already arrived at Forest Hills in Palm City.

Cpl. Kelly Dobson joined about 50 other law enforcement officers and firefighters from throughout the state to pay musical tribute to a fallen comrade Monday.

"We need to give these people the best send off we can," said the Brevard County Sheriff officer near the gravesite of St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Gary Morales.

As members of the Florida Police Fire Pipe and Drums practiced about 1 p.m. several helicopters flew overhead at the Forest Hills Memorial Park where Morales was to be put to rest.

"It's something they will remember and cherish forever and that's what it's all about," said Dobson of the importance of the tribute to Morales' family.

Members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard were also on hand preparing for a 21-gun salute to Morales.

"This sergeant died to protect the community and that is not something that should be taken lightly," said Dobson

The parking lot at the church started filling up early Monday morning, hours before the viewing and funeral services for St. Lucie County deputy Morales.

Two St. Lucie County Fire District ladder trucks hoisted a huge American flag at the parking lot entrance as law enforcement officers checked their best dress uniforms.

Morales, whose brother also works at the sheriff's office, was shot to death last week during a routine traffic stop in Fort Pierce.

Patrol vehicles from law enforcement agencies including sheriff's offices in St. Lucie, Indian River, Palm Beach and Broward counties along with police departments including those in Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Winter Springs, Sebastian and the Village of Tequesta were in the parking lot of the church on Jenkins Road.

"We're here to honor an officer's passing, away and it's just a camaraderie we have in the state of Florida, nationwide," said Officer Frank Hernandez of the Key Biscayne police. "Every time an officer passes away we make sure to honor his death."

Robert Perez, who said he's known the Morales family since they lived in Long Island, New York, said he arrived about 7:15 a.m. He said his vehicle was the second in the parking lot.

Perez said he began working in law enforcement in 1986 for the Department of Defense and was injured four years ago in a "drug bust gone bad." He said a getaway car struck him.

Perez, 54, said he was in a coma for 45 days. He was walking with a cane Monday.

"That's part of the duty that we accept to protect our community," he said. "So it is part of what we understand."

He said if he had died, he knew Gary Morales and the Morales family would have been there for him.

Sunday night, Ingersoll expected about 40 family members at the private viewing, but 175 showed up. Law enforcement officers also filled the church's lobby before Monday's viewing.

"I knew his neighbors, and they always talked about his accomplishments. When I heard the news, I was hurt. How could people be so evil?" said Port St. Lucie resident Patricia Santos.

Previously: Thousands of law enforcement officers from around the area are expected to come and pay their respects for Sgt. Gary Morales Monday.

Sgt. Morales was shot and killed last week while performing a traffic stop.

His alleged killer, Eriese Tisdale, remains in jail without bond.

The funeral for St. Lucie County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Gary Morales will be held Monday at Westside Baptist Church in Fort Pierce.

Public viewing begins at 10 a.m. and the service at noon. The church is located at 3361 S. Jenkins Road.

A graveside service will take place immediately following at Forest Hills Memorial Park, 2001 SW Murphy Road in Palm City.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff's office urges anyone wishing to make donations to the Morales family may make checks payable to "The 100 Club of St. Lucie County, Florida." Please designate the donation is for the Morales family. 100 percent of the donation goes directly to the family.

Donations to the Hundred Club are tax-deductible. The Hundred Club is a "501-c-3" not-for-profit corporation. Checks can be mailed to The Hundred Club of St. Lucie County: 4700 West Midway Road, Fort Pierce, Florida 34981.

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