The family of a Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty last week invited the public to memorial services today at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz.
LaVigne was scheduled to retire the next day when he was killed Monday night in Brandon by a fleeing suspect who deliberately rammed his patrol car, the Sheriff’s Office said. He was described as charismatic and magnetic, “a cop’s cop” who knew how to balance family and work throughout his 30-year career.
Here are highlights from the solemn celebration of the deputy’s life.
3:15 p.m. A final public farewell
Crowds lined Falkenburg Road approaching the sheriff’s District 5 office in Brandon to show their respects as the funeral procession passed.
There was no ceremony after all at the District 5 office, where Cpl. LaVigne had been assigned. The procession swung back toward Tampa and the sheriff’s Ybor City headquarters, where Sheriff Chad Chronister was scheduled to deliver some final remarks.
A daylong public farewell to a fallen career officer has ended.
2:50 p.m. Honor guard represents city of Tampa
2:25 p.m. Flags of honor
2:15 p.m. A final procession
Nine deputies on motorcycles escort the hearse carrying Cpl. Brian LaVigne south on Interstate 275 to a memorial service at the Sheriff’s District 5 headquarters off Falkenburg Road.
Helicopter video from WTVT-TV, Ch. 13, shows a clear day and an unbroken procession of vehicles following behind in single-file.
1:45 p.m. “I can’t stand before you and cry.”
Cathy LaVigne was at the center of the pageantry — the honor guard, the presentation of colors, the traditional riderless horse and “final call” from a nearby squad car, the 21-gun salute, motorcycle motorcade, a small army of kilted bagpipers, then a spectacular helicopter flyover.
The governor, the attorney general, the mayor of Tampa and the sheriff all came to the services for her husband, along with hundreds of law enforcement officers, news crews, local officials and others packing the socially distanced pews at Idlewild Baptist Church — even the choir loft behind the stage.
Outside were hundreds more.
“Brian would have thought it was all too much, that it was too much of a fuss,” she told the crowd from the pulpit. “We spoiled him rotten, and he was so, so happy.”
If the shoe were on the other foot, if it were Brian who had to stand at the pulpit to deliver a tear-filled eulogy, it likely would have sounded just like the one his wife has practiced since her husband died Jan. 11 when his patrol car, investigators said, was crushed by a fleeing suspect.
”Brian and I joked that he had to sit still and not do anything in the last days before his retirement. He assured me he wouldn’t do anything. That was a lie. He couldn’t in a million years ‘not do anything.’”
But she knew what she signed up for, she said, and so did his children. The rules are different when your spouse was born to “serve and protect.”
Everyone says that if you know Cathy, then you know Brian and vice versa. They were high school sweethearts who fell in love when they were just “barbarian teenagers,” she said, and their two children turned out as wonderfully weird as they did.
They shared the same heart, same brain, and same sense of humor: dry sarcasm mixed with a quick, biting wit that shocked and delighted his colleagues in the Sheriff’s Office, the kids he coached on his children’s soccer teams, friends in his jiu-jitsu class and the thousands of students he met and still remembered from his days of working as a school resource officer.
”I can’t stand before you and cry, that’s not what Brian would do,” Cathy LaVigne said. “He’d tell you this isn’t fair and probably rant – he would definitely rant – and then maybe throw out something shockingly inappropriately funny just to see your reaction.”
And he would have loved the music — a mixture of Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and old-timey hymns that his colleagues couldn’t’ help but sing along with.
He would have laughed when a bagpiper stepped onto a stage bathed in green light and white flowers to play the elegaic Por Ti Volare, “with you I will leave.”
Ever the Irishman, LaVigne had recently decided, at the age of 54, to learn how to play the bagpipes.
1:25 p.m. At outdoor ceremony, a helicopter flyover
1:20 p.m. “We salute you Sergeant LaVine.”
12:35 p.m. Funeral procession route
The funeral procession for Cpl. LaVigne will leave Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, head south on Dale Mabry Highway to Bearss Avenue, east to Interstate 275, south to Interstate 4, east to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard then south on Falkenburg Road to the Sheriff’s District 5 Office at 10128 Windhorst Road.
A ceremony is scheduled outside the district office.
11:55 a.m. Posthumous promotion to sergeant
In his remarks on Cpl. LaVigne’s 30 years of service, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister spoke of the many promotions LaVigne passed up and midnight shifts he worked so he would be home for his kids.
Today, he was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Among hundreds in attendance at the funeral are Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the city’s former police chief. Hillsborough County Commissioner Harry Cohen presented LaVigne’s widow, Cathy, with a proclamation honoring her husband’s service.
The County Commission will hold a special ceremony on Feb. 3
11:30 a.m. Condolences for the family
11:00 a.m. Memories on display
Daughter Caitlin LaVigne is attending the services in her Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office uniform, alongside her mom and brother.
Caitlin joined the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy nine years ago, fulfilling her dream of following in her father’s footsteps. But it wasn’t the first time she donned the uniform. This photo below from the Bloomingdale High School yearbook shows her wearing her dad’s old gear — on “Nerd Day,” of course.
10:50 a.m. Soundtrack reflects Irish roots
Members of LaVigne’s family receive mourners as visitation begins at Idlewild Baptist Church, one of Florida’s largest with seating for 5,000.
The soundtrack now playing seems written just for a career sheriff’s deputy like LaVigne: Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty, and in recognition of LaVigne’s pride in his Irish heritage, If I Ever Leave This World Alive by Flogging Molly and Rose Tattoo by the Dropkick Murphys.
Also, Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips:
When enemies are at your door
I’ll carry you away from more
If you need help ...
You would never sleep alone
I love you long after you’re gone
And long after you’re gone, gone, gone.
9:45 a.m. Family arrives at church for services
The family of Cpl. LaVigne has arrived at Idlewild Baptist Church for the funeral service.
They have asked through the Sheriff’s Office that no photos or videos of them be taken by the media.
LaVigne’s daughter, Caitlin LaVigne, said in a sheriff’s video last week that she grew up intent on following in her father’s footsteps, and she did, joining the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
“I wanted to be just like him ... I wanted to do what he did for people. I wanted to make people feel the way he made them feel.”
8:35 a.m. Waving the Thin Blue Line flag
The company Big Blue Line Flag will fly a giant Thin Blue Line American flag along the procession route, the company said on Facebook. The flag is black and white with one blue line substituting for a stripe in the converted stars and stripes configuration.
The design is meant to represent law enforcement officers, with the top signifying the law-abiding portion of a community, the bottom those who intend chaos and destruction and the thin blue line of police protection in between, according to the website flagsofvalor.com.
8:30 a.m. Where to park at the church
Parking for the public will be on the eastern and southwestern sides of Idlewild Baptist Church, the Sheriff’s Office reminded people in a tweet.
8:00 a.m. Procession arriving at Idlewild church
A procession to Idlewild Baptist Church was expected to arrive after 7 a.m.
To make way for the funeral procession from the church after the services, the Sheriff’s Office announced rolling traffic delays on N Dale Mabry Highway, Bearss Avenue, Interstate 275, Interstate 4, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Falkenburg Road starting around 12:45 p.m.