Memorial services set for Highlands County fallen deputy, William Gentry

- The vigil and memorial services for a Highland County fallen deputy has been arranged.

Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman announced the arrangements surrounded by fellow deputies on Tuesday morning with flags at half-staff in front of the sheriff's office. The patrol car once belonging to Deputy William Gentry, who passed away after getting shot in the head Sunday night, stood in the background, with black and blue balloons and bouquets of flowers brought by members of the community

Maria Glaarza told FOX 13 News why she brought her 4-year-old granddaughter to the makeshift memorial for Gentry.

“She has to understand, even though they take care of us, a lot of people don’t care,” Glaarza said.

On Wednesday, May 9, a candlelight vigil will be held at 8 p.m. at Fireman’s Field, located at 681 Magnolia Avenue in Sebring. The public is invited and encouraged to attend to say a few words in honor of Deputy Gentry.

On Monday, May 14, a private visitation will be held for Deputy Gentry’s family.

On Tuesday, May 15, a Law Enforcement Memorial will be held at 11 a.m. at the Highlands New Sun Center, located at 781 Magnolia Avenue. Hundreds from across the state and country are expected to attend, Sheriff Blackman explained, and advised to avoid the area due to traffic congestion if you don’t plan on attending. It is open to the public to attend. 

The time and date is subject to change for the public memorial. Deputy Gentry is an organ donor and his body remains at Lee Memorial Hospital as officials work with organ transplant agencies. Until Deputy Gentry is laid to rest, two uniform deputies will remain with his body, altering shifts. Deputies will also monitor his home and family’s home during that time.

His patrol car will remain in front of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office until his final resting place has been determined, Sheriff Blackman said.

“Citizens are encouraged to stop by,” he said with a shaky voice before he paused, took a deep breath, and continued, “and pay respects if they wish.” 

Deputy Gentry was killed during what seemed like a routine dispute between neighbors, but as former Highland's County Sheriff Susan Benton explained, every call has the potential to turn deadly.

“Some person with an absolute lack of humanity and no conscience just kills him like an animal,” said former Sheriff Benton told FOX 13 News. “My last eight months in office, I feared this happening more than anything… I lived in constant prayer for God to wrap his arms around the men and women here because I was just so worried all the time.”

At about 7:45 p.m. on Sunday, Deputy Gentry responded to Baltimore Way in Lake Placid along with a deputy he was training, after a neighbor to suspect Joseph Ables said he shot her cat.

The trainee stayed with the neighbor as Deputy Gentry went to Ables home. He had little time to react as Ables pulled out a gun, and shot the deputy in the head, the sheriff said. 

The deputy-in-training ran across the street after hearing shots fired and took cover nearby.

“[She] was calling for Deputy Gentry to respond and she never got a response,” Sheriff Blackman said.

A second deputy arrived, and the Ables’ garage door started to open. The suspect was seen attempting to enter a vehicle but was arrested.

Through the deputy’s peripherals, he saw Deputy Gentry laying on the ground in a lanai-area of the home. 

He was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries at 1:10 p.m. on May 7. 

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