The Tampa Police Department is mourning the loss of one of its own. Officer Howard Gimbel died while riding his motorcycle with his wife. They were hit by an oncoming SUV.
Gimbel served with TPD 20 years, the last 10 as part of the elite motorcycle patrol unit, a group made up of just 15 officers. Colleagues say Gimbel was loyal to the end, and there's no doubt that he died doing what he loved. Now, they're committed honoring him through their service, and by helping his family.
For Officer Howard Gimbel, riding his motorcycle, was a passion that ran deep.
"Being on a motorcycle, was where he was happiest," said TPD Cpl. Greg Weekes.
A video of Gimbel on his patrol motorcycle was shown a few years ago by the Tampa Bay Lightning, when Officer Himbel was honored as one of the "Boldest of the Bay".
"Keeping driver's safe is Gimbel's daily charge, and he's willing to put his life in harm's way to do so," the video's narrator said.
But despite all his training and decades of experience keeping others safe on the roads, Gimbel's life was taken by another driver.
"When it comes to riding, the one thing we hammer in all our training is that we can never know when the next danger is going to come around the corner," said Cpl. Weekes.
Cpl. Greg Weekes worked alongside Officer Gimbel for 20 years, including the last 10 in the motorcyle unit. He says Gimbel had a unique sense of humor, was incredibly loyal, and his devotion to the job, was second to none.
"Howard Gimbel was a cop's cop. He was a guy who, in an investigation followed it all the way through. He was known as our sqaud bulldog to go after somebody. If he got a name, he got the least bit of a lead as a traffic homicide investigator, he'd follow up on that and he and he was known for his clearance rate of cases," said Cpl. Weekes.
Officer Gimbel was also known as a family man. He and his wife Tonya were riding their motorcycle together Saturday night when the accident happened. Cpl. Weekes hopes the crash brings an important reminder to watch out for everyone sharing the roads.
"I'd hope any time we have a crash with serious injury or death, that it reminds people it's dangerous and we all need to pay attention," said Cpl. Weekes.
In the mean time, officers say the best thing they can do to honor Ofc. Gimbe is to keep protecting and serving the community.
"We are all struck by this. We're all hurt. We're all suffering. Each one of us is suffering. We all suffer in our own way. We also know we're going to wake up in the morning and put a uniform on and go to work the next day because there's no calling in sick. We need to come in. We need to do our job. So I'm proud of being part of a police department that has that attitude. Even when we suffer a huge loss and sometimes it's massive, we wake up the next day and come to work, get the job done," said cpl. Weekes.
Gimbel's friends and colleagues also want to help the Gimbel family. Tonya Gimbel continues to recover at the hospital in stable condition.
In just a few short weeks, the couple's daughter, Sarah, will be graduating high school. A go fund me page has been set up to pay for her college education at USF. You can donate here: www.gofundme.com/inhowardshonor
Funeral arrangements for Ofc. Gimbel are pending. Charges could be filed against the SUV driver.