PUNTA GORDA--Sergeant Michael Wilson devoted his life to protecting and serving the people of Charlotte County.
Saturday morning thousands of those very citizens Wilson died protecting, were on hand to pay their respects and just say thanks.
Surrounded by his fellow deputies, the body of Sergeant Michael Wilson made its way, one last time, past an ever-grateful community; the gaze of his wife and three children never straying from Wilson's flag-draped casket.
"I feel sadness that a man had to lose his life this way," said an onlooker.
Thousands came to pay their respects, along with law enforcement officers from nearly every part of the state.
"Law enforcement was in his blood, and he gave the ultimate sacrifice," said Charlotte County Sheriff Bil Prummell.
It was clear his Wilson's boyish grin became the stuff of legends; outdone only by the love for his family and the officers who never left his side.
"Please understand, that on Monday night, Mike did not die alone," said Sergeant Chris Williams, "because his friends, his brothers, were by his side to protect and comfort him through his new transition, to heaven."
It was a ceremony steeped in tradition, but wrought with feelings of loss and grief. Many who showed up had never even met Michael Wilson, but said it was their duty to see him off.
"For twenty-one years, he stood for the people of Charlotte county, today it's my turn to stand for him," said a flag-carrying onlooker.
And while the question of why Sergeant Wilson was killed maybe never truly be known, there was no question as to the lives he'd changed.
"He was one of the finest officers and one of the most giving caring people I have ever met, he was really an asset to this community," said a friend of Wilson's.
Wilson leaves behind his wife Joanne, and his three children Brandon, Tyler, and Emily. A fund has been set up to make donations to their family, if you'd like to contribute please contact the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.