HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hundreds gathered Tuesday, January 19 to honor the life of a Hillsborough County deputy who was killed in the line of duty after officials say a suspect intentionally rammed into his patrol car.
Master Corporal Brian LaVigne, who was promoted to sergeant posthumously Tuesday, died last week.
The 30-year veteran of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office was just one shift away from retirement, according to Sheriff Chad Chronister.
A public visitation took place Tuesday morning at Idlewild Baptist Church, followed by a funeral service and special ceremony with a 21 gun salute and flyover. Hundreds of people including friends, family and law enforcement officers from all over the state came to the church to pay tribute to the fallen hero. Friends spoke about LaVigne's life of service, saying he was a man who would do the right thing when no one was looking, when it wasn't popular and even when it would get him in trouble.
Colleagues remarked that he loved his family, a wife and two children, deeply and always put them first. Friends shared LaVigne had a talent for teaching and leading others.
Sheriff Chronister explained why he decided to promote LaVigne to sergeant on Tuesday.
“He declined a bunch of transfers, and I think transfers that probably would have led to his rise here in the department and forwent them because he wanted to make sure his family was first, that he could always be there for his family," said Chronister. "I felt today it was extremely important to his legacy, to his family, to our community to send a message that when you put your family first, we’re going to honor that legacy with a promotion to the rank of sergeant.”
LaVigne had been part of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office family since 1990. During the funeral service, LaVigne's family shared he would be there for them in a heartbeat and was someone who listened without judgment. Sheriff Chronister later shared how the family is coping one week after their loss.
“I think the mom is left with, 'Now what? I’m retired. My husband was supposed to be retired.' She even said it just today, she told her husband the last couple days, 'Go park somewhere and don't get involved in anything," said Chronister. "Well, anyone who knew Sgt. LaVigne knew that wasn’t his style. When someone called for help, he was going to go.”
Dozens of community members lined North Dale Mabry Highway to pay tribute to LaVigne.
Teresa Keefer, of Tampa, has family in law enforcement and took part in the procession to pay her respects. "It just really hit my heart heavy," she said with emotion."He was so close to retirement and that makes it even more devastating, but the loss of a law enforcement officer, regardless where they are in their career, is devastating."
The procession continued on for miles along N. Dale Mabry Highway, Bears Ave., NB I-275, EB I-4, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Falkenburg Road.
A donation link has been set up for those interested in making a donation in memory of Master Corporal Brian LaVigne.
Anyone who would like to graciously donate is asked to do so through the Lynn Sowers Memorial Foundation. The link to donate can be found on the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office website here.