PUNTA GORDA, Fla.- A public viewing is being held today to say goodbye to a Charlotte County deputy killed in the line of duty.
Sergeant Michael Wilson died earlier this week, while responding to a domestic dispute. He's the first officer killed on the job in Southwest Florida in about five years.
Sgt. Wilson's viewing began at 4:00 p.m. and will continue until 8:00 p.m. at the Charlotte Harbor Event Center. The funeral will be held in the same location on Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. Following the funeral, there will be an honorary procession. The public is encouraged to show support by lining the procession route.
Due to the expected crowd and the resulting congestion in downtown Punta Gorda, members of the general public are urged to watch the services from the comfort of their homes. Even if you do not plan to attend the services, anyone travelling in Punta Gorda can expect major traffic delays beginning about 9:00 am.
Following the services, at about 11:30 a.m., there will be an Honorary Procession from the Event Center through Sgt. Wilson's patrol area in Port Charlotte and back to the Event Center. A route map for the procession is attached. Members of the community are also encouraged to show their support for Sgt. Wilson and his family by positioning themselves along the route to honor him. The procession is expected to take between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete its journey.
Prior to the beginning of the procession, the Punta Gorda Police Department will be blocking off northbound US 41 at Olympia Avenue. The procession will be taking up all lanes of northbound US 41 until it reaches Veterans Blvd. It will take both eastbound lanes of Veterans Blvd. When it turns onto Peachland Blvd., and later onto Harbor Blvd., it will continue to occupy two lanes. As a result, eastbound Peachland Blvd. will be closed at Harbor and southbound Harbor will be closed at Peachland. When the procession reaches US 41 to turn south, it will again occupy all 3 lanes and traffic will either be stopped or diverted right (south) onto Harbor toward the beach.
The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office has set up an easy way to make donations for Sgt. Wilson's family. Click here to donate. All money will go directly to the family.
With lights flashing and sirens wailing, Charlotte County deputies escort one of their own, Sergeant Michael Wilson, to the place he'll be honored as a hero.
"He was just a good person he was a good law officer, he followed the books, he did did right," said his father Michael Wilson, Sr.
More funeral flowers arrived and American Flags were lifted in honor of a man who died doing what he loved.
Walking in the procession Saturday is Legacy the caparisoned horse, or "riderless horse."
"There's protocal that goes along with the caparisoned horse which symbolizes a fallen rider and goes back even before the the time of Genghis Kahn in which they did this for fallen warriors. that died in battle.
He will walk behind Sergeant Wilson's hearse. "The horse should be black with a black saddle pad with a while one inch border with a saddle on there with the boots turned on backwards to symbolize that the rider is doing a pass and review. As the horse is led away, he is looking back on his family and friends who he is leaving behind, obviously he will always be with them in their heart."