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Overflow crowd remembers slain Mendocino County deputy (w/video)

  • Julie Whipple and Deputy Sean Wristen share their memories of Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino during the memorial service for the fallen deputy in Fort Bragg on March 26, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

The star-shaped badge that Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino wore on his chest each day — its shiny gold surface scarred by the gunfire that took his life — was bestowed upon his widow Wednesday in a somber memorial service.

The tribute began before dawn when hundreds of law enforcement vehicles from around the state, their light bars flashing, gathered in Ukiah and formed a long procession that traveled across Mendocino County to the coastal community Del Fiorentino served for 26 years.

A bagpiper and drummer opened and closed a 90-minute ceremony for an overflow crowd estimated at more than 2,000 people. One speaker after another recalled a mountain of a man with a huge heart and hearty laugh whose legacy made for a mixture of laughter amid the tears.

Ricky Del Fiorentino Memorial

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Del Fiorentino was remembered as a practical joker, a loyal community servant who truly honored those he protected and an outdoorsman who took so much joy in fishing and hunting that he taught his skills to anyone who would learn.

He was, said Fort Bragg police officer and friend Andrew Kendl, “a guy who could give you a hug and change your day.”

“From the lowest criminals to the street people to the druggies, he treated them all with respect due to them as human beings,” retired sheriff's Lt. Don Miller said.

Del Fiorentino, 48, was gunned down March 19 in a wooded enclave north of town while pursuing a murder suspect from Oregon.

He served with the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office on either side of a decade-long stint with the Fort Bragg Police Department. He rejoined the Sheriff's Office in 2000 but remained stationed on the coast, residing in Fort Bragg with his wife of six years, Beth Del Fiorentino, and a blended family of kids in a community where his roots were buried deep.

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