Vigil held for slain Highlands deputy

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Highlands County Sheriff's Deputy William Gentry was shot Sunday night while responding to a call for a dispute between neighbors. A vigil was held for him at Fireman's Field in Sebring.

The sheriff's office said about 1,200 people, including plenty of law enforcement, packed into the stands to hold candles and pray.

"We must come together and understand we are one people. We are one people in this county. We must unite in this county. We must support our law enforcement in this county. We must support each other. It is important to be here today because we want the message to be out there that we are not going to be a county that is going to be broken," said Shirley Johnson of Avon Park.

Many wore Gentry's badge number across their chests: 2247.

Speakers gave tribute to William Gentry, remembering him as a quiet, unassuming man with a dry sense of humor.

His pastor said, if you knew Willie, you’d know how incredibly mad he is that we are all making a big deal over him. That’s the kind of man he is -- was.

People vowed that the killing would lead to a closer community.

"Everybody gets together. You are not enemies. You are not friends," said John Nelson of Sebring. "You are human beings gathering to console a family and a family of officers and the family of officers who was slain."

The funeral is being held Tuesday, but there will be a procession beginning in Polk County starting tomorrow at 9 a.m.

The body will be taken from the Medical Examiner's Office in Winter Haven down U.S. 27. They expect Deputy Gentry's remains to reach the Highlands County Line at 10 a.m.

It will be taken to the Stephenson-Nelson Funeral Home on Sebring Parkway.