By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Flags in St. Lucie County flew at half-staff.
Law enforcement from every corner of the Treasure Coast wore badges with black mourning bands.
Hundreds gathered Monday at Westside Baptist Church in Fort Pierce to say goodbye to 35-year-old Sgt. Gary Morales, a St. Lucie County deputy who was shot and killed the morning of Feb. 28 during a routine traffic stop.
Tissues held tightly wiped away tears. The backs of white-gloved hands quickly wiped eyes clenched shut.
St. Lucie County, as well as state leaders, joined officers in their dress blues, relatives and friends of Sgt. Morales, who lived in Port St. Lucie but was well-known all over the county.
Stories filled the air in the days after the shooting. Stories of good deeds, wise advice and lives turned around by a man who listened but did not judge.
A color guard escorted Sgt. Morales' coffin out of the church, and dozens of law enforcement vehicles were waiting with lights flashing to join the funeral procession to take Sgt. Morales to his final resting place at Forest Hills Memorial Park in Palm City.
Sgt. Morales was born in New York, and joined his family here in 1999.
An Air Force veteran, he received a number of medals and recognitions, including the Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
He joined the St. Lucie Sheriff's Office 12 years ago, and the awards continued, with the most recent being his promotion in January to Sergeant Deputy. He worked in uniform patrol, as a school resource officer, as the team leader of the snipers for the area S.W.A.T. team, in Special Investigations and as part of the training unit.
He was an instructor in firearms, defensive tactics and driving, as well as Crossfit.
On the morning of Feb. 28, he made a traffic stop in the 3200 block of Naylor Terrace, just south of Edwards Road south of Fort Pierce in unincorporated St. Lucie County.
The report from the Sheriff's Office states that during the stop, Eriese Alphonso Tisdale, 25, of Fort Pierce, got out of his car and shot Sgt. Morales, who was still sitting in his patrol car.
Mr. Tisdale left the scene and crashed his car just south of the shooting on Oleander Avenue.
Sgt. Morales was transported to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute where he was pronounced dead.
Sgt. Morales leaves behind his wife, Holly, and his two daughters Brooklynn and Jordan, along with numerous family members, including his brother, St. Lucie County Deputy Sheriff Brad Morales.
Mr. Tisdale is currently being held without bond, and has been charged with premeditated first degree murder, assault on an officer, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and fleeing the scene.