Highlands County community says farewell to fallen deputy at funeral

- A community is coming together today to honor and remember their fallen deputy in Highlands County. The funeral for Deputy William Gentry wrapped up this afternoon, with hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the state showing their support for his family.

Taps and a 21-gun salute punctuated the service, followed by an emotional end-of watch call.

The Highlands County Sheriff's Office is relatively small, with 225 deputies. All were invited to attend the service; the Polk County Sheriff's Office offered to patrol Highlands County during the funeral so the Highlands deputies could pay their respects. 

Governor Rick Scott ordered flags to remain at half-staff on Tuesday, in honor of Deputy Gentry.

From the sheriff's office:

Deputy Gentry was born on November 3, 1977 and grew up in Fort Myers. He moved to Highlands county and attended Lake Placid High School. He graduated in 1996.

He joined the sheriff’s office on March 23, 2005, and “immediately fell in love with the work of the K9 unit,” according to the agency. When he joined the unit, he patrolled the county for four years alongside his partner, Roni. When Roni retired in 2012, the agency said Deputy Gentry couldn’t imagine taking another dog to work. So, he transferred out of the K9 unit. 

He wasn’t just a dedicated deputy. Deputy Gentry was a talented artist and woodworker. He left the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office in 2013 to make custom pool cues, but returned to the agency on February 1, 2017. In April 2018, he became a field training deputy, and was mentoring younger deputies, including on the night of May 6, when he was fatally shot while responding to a Lake Placid neighborhood. He was described as a quiet, unassuming man, with a dry sense of humor.

Deputy Gentry is survived by his parents, William J. “Jack” Gentry and Susan; his younger brother Kevin, who is a detective with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office; his former wife, Jennifer; and many aunts, uncles and cousins. He is also survived by his four dogs. In addition to Roni, his faithful partner, he also opened his home to Sika, Chubbs and Link. 

The family requests donations to www.rescueranch.com in lieu of flowers. Memorial contributions can be made to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office at 400 S. Eucalyptus St., Sebring, FL 33870. 

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