1,200 remember Sevier deputy as lawman, father, friend – Courtesy of The Salt Lake TribunePosted on June 2, 2010 by ULEM Administrator
By Lindsay Whitehurst
The Salt Lake Tribune
Richfield » The essay was a job interview assignment: Write about a memorable life experience. Sgt. Franco Aguilar wrote about the births of his five children.
I never thought I could have so many emotions running through my mind, he wrote. Being with his wife when they came into the world was “for me … one of the best things that have happened.”
Sevier County Chief Deputy John Hunt came across the essay when it fell from Aguilar’s filing cabinet this week. Hunt seemed meant to find it, he said, and read it at his fellow deputy’s funeral Wednesday.
He lived for you. He loved you, Sevier County Sheriff Phil Barney, visibly upset, told Aguilar’s wife, Jamie Farley.
He would like to spend every spare minute with you.
Aguilar, 36, died April 29 while helping a woman whose car had crashed on the icy Fish Creek Bridge. As he waited outside her door, another car went out of control and hit him. He was thrown from the bridge and plummeted more than 100 feet to his death.
Franco Aguilar was a great example of public service, Gov. Gary Herbert said after the Catholic funeral Mass. He “loved his family and his country and gave his life in that service. We should never take it for granted.”
More than 1,200 people, including police officers from all over the state, gathered at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield on Wednesday. Aguilar was remembered as a mischievous prankster and
a dedicated sheriff’s deputy proud of his Mexican heritage.
We came from Mexico to have a better life in this country, said his father, Gerardo, thanking the Sheriff’s Office for giving his son the opportunity to work there. “I lost one son. Everyone lost one friend.”
Aguilar served six years with the Marine Corps before starting as a Sevier County jail officer in 2000.
When he interviewed for a patrol position, “he stood about 10 feet taller than anyone else,” Barney said. As a deputy, he greeted each person as he came into the office in the morning and gave everyone nicknames like “Bam Bam,” “Pepper” and “Hijo de Oro,” Spanish for the golden son.
And when he wanted to give his sheriff “heck,” he’d jokingly respond with a “No hablo Ingles,”‘ Barney said.
One day, not long after Barney started treatment for cancer, Aguilar walked up to him with a big smile on his face. He gave Barney a baseball cap with a ponytail glued on the back to replace the hair he might lose.
Everyone knew he was the chief’s favorite, Lt. Mitch Blackham said with a smile. “I’d like to claim I was his best friend, but the problem is, I think several people would argue with that. I think everyone that knew Franco felt like they were his best friend.”
Aguilar was a valuable link to the county’s Hispanic community, Barney said, as someone who not only spoke their language but also truly understood them.
He also connected with young people, said 22-year-old Ammom King, who was in an automotive course with him. Aguilar was restoring a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air, he said.
He helped me get out of trouble a lot, told me not to hang out with the wrong crowds, King said. “He wasn’t really like a cop; he was like a friend.”
Officers embrace as they gather for Sgt. Franco Aguilar, who was killed when an out-of-control car slid into an accident scene and threw him over a bridge April 29. Hundreds of officers, friends and family gathered at Snow College in Richfield for the viewing and service before traveling north to American Fork where he was to be laid to rest Wednesday. (Francisco Kjolseth / The Salt Lake Tribune)