Polk deputies patrol Highlands County as community grieves loss

SEBRING, Fla. — A dozen deputies are lending their help to colleagues across county lines, as the Highlands community grieves the loss of a deputy who died in the line of duty. 

Thousands paid their respects Tuesday to fallen Highlands County Deputy William Gentry, who was shot more than a week ago while responding to a call in Lake Placid. 

"When that madman shot and killed Deputy Gentry, he killed a piece of America that night," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. 

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Sheriff Judd attended Gentry's funeral Tuesday. Following the news of the deadly shooting, he immediately called Highlands Sheriff Paul Blackman. 

"In Highlands County, they all know each other personally, they all need to grieve together and to be together during this very tragic time," said Sheriff Judd. 

From 6 p.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Wednesday, no one will have seen Highlands patrol cars on the streets. 

A rotation of 12 Polk County deputies are on patrol, serving the people of Highlands County day and night. 

The assistance is made possible through a mutual aid agreement every Florida law enforcement agency enters. 

"They help keep peace and one of their deputies died as a result of keeping people safe, so it was the least we could do," said Sheriff Judd. 

The Highlands County Sheriff's Office wrote on Facebook Monday, "The cars and faces may be different, but rest assured the safety of our county is in excellent hands." 

Raymond Hartley, who has lived in Highlands County for most of his life, is thankful for the help. He says it allows those who knew and worked with Gentry to properly grieve. 

"I think it's a good thing that Polk County is willing to step up to the plate and help us and to patrol our streets," said Hartley. "I think they do an amazing job." 

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