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Bodyguard was "great servant'

Family members gathered Sunday to share their memories of Tampa police Detective Juan Serrano, the mayor's driver and bodyguard, who died Saturday in a hit-and-run accident.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio was not involved in the Gibsonton-area crash.

Serrano was a 17-year Tampa police veteran and a police officer in his native Puerto Rico.

"My brother was always the policeman, ever since we were kids," Hector Serrano said. "He always wanted to be the one doing the right thing."

Hector Serrano was joined Sunday by two of his brother's daughters, Johan, 29, and Doriann, 26, in a news conference at Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel.

When Juan Serrano last spoke with Johan a few days ago, she said, "He told me that he loved me."

Serrano, 49, died after a Pontiac Grand Prix went through a red light and broadsided his Ford Taurus as he got off Interstate 275 at Gibsonton Drive.

He had been with the mayor Saturday at the Gasparilla Distance Classic run. Serrano later dropped her off and was headed home when the accident occurred about 12:45 p.m.

The Pontiac's driver and owner, Jose Luis Espinosa, 35, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death and not having a valid driver's license.

Espinosa and his passenger, Marco Antonio Rosas-Galves of Gibsonton, jumped from the car and ran from the scene. A police dog found Espinosa hiding behind a dock nearby. He told deputies he was distracted when he ran the red light.

Investigators are treating Rosas-Galves, 26, as a witness, sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said. He wouldn't elaborate on what Rosas-Galves said was going on in the Grand Prix before the crash.

Espinosa, of 6129 Palm Ave., No. 11 in Gibsonton, remained in jail in lieu of $9,500 bail on Sunday. He will make his first appearance before a judge this morning.

Hector Serrano said family members had not given much thought yet to the circumstances of his brother's death, because "it was so fast and took us all by surprise."

Funeral arrangements are pending for Serrano, who worked in the department's Criminal Intelligence Bureau and was Iorio's security officer for special events.

Hector Serrano said his brother enjoyed riding his motorcycle and doing yard work, but most of the time he was doing his favorite thing: working as a police officer.

"I always teased him about it, but he was always working. I think he just enjoyed it," Hector Serrano said. "He loved being a policeman. I would love for him to be remembered as a great servant of the community."