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Wreck claims life of veteran Pharr policeman who influenced many

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Posted: Friday, August 9, 2013 10:00 pm

PHARR — At least a dozen visitors gathered at the home of a Pharr police sergeant killed in a Friday wreck, who some of the area’s top cops described as an outstanding officer and mentor to others in uniform.

Sgt. Jorge Luis “J.L.” Garcia, 51, died in a two-vehicle collision with a dump truck Friday afternoon.

Pharr Police Chief Ruben Villescas said in a news release that the sergeant was driving a red Ford Ranger that collided with the other vehicle at the intersection of Anaya Road and Cage Boulevard. After police responded to the 911 call at 3:53 p.m., the officer was transported to an area hospital for life threatening injuries and pronounced dead at 4:43 p.m.

Police said late Friday night that Garcia was driving to a meeting at the Pharr International Bridge to discuss operations with officers under his command. The dump truck’s driver, a 55-year-old man, asked to be taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released. No cause of the wreck had been determined Friday night.

In a telephone interview, Villescas said Garcia was an honorable public servant who will be missed.

“He was a friend. He was a colleague. He was a special individual,” Villescas said, adding that funeral arrangements are pending. 

San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez, who worked for 20 years in the Pharr department, was once under Garcia’s supervision and then later became Garcia’s supervisor.

The chief said his most vivid memory of Garcia, who served in the department for 27 years, was when he took the young and ambitious Gonzalez aside and told him to slow down while imparting lifelong wisdom.

“He said: ‘Your work is not going to end in eight hours. … The position never makes you. You make the position,’” Gonzalez recalled.

Of the veteran Garcia, Gonzalez said he was a figure many looked up to; a field trainer who multi-tasked and always greeted his peers with a smile.

 “He was one of the best officers that Pharr PD ever had. He’s going to be greatly missed. He was a great gentleman and a friend and a partner,” Gonzalez said. “He was probably the most respected police officers in that department.”

Hidalgo Police Chief Rudy Espinoza recalled working alongside Garcia in the 1990’s when Espinoza asked for support from Pharr while doing undercover work with a task force at the McAllen Police Department.

“We interacted in those operations. He would always make you laugh when we were preparing for the operation,” Espinoza said. “But then, when everything would start, I could always count on him. In police work we may not talk much, but we become a family outside of our family; especially with the old veteran cops. You could say we (veteran police officers) have all grown up together.”

Surviving Garcia are his wife and two children. His duties at Pharr police included emergency management and hurricane preparedness, as well as field training and instructing officers on when to use force, Villescas said.

As time went by, Garcia became a mentor and a good role model for many officers in his department, Espinoza said. Garcia’s sudden death is a pointed reminder that you should be grateful for each day, he said.

As the sun set Friday, a Pharr police unit quietly sat outside Garcia’s home while visitors greeted one another and some arrived with food. Eventually, an officer who arrived in a second unit marked “supervisor” entered the home carrying a large white box.

Family members declined to comment for this story.

On Friday, the San Juan police chief expressed a profound sense of loss.

“If I can define what an officer is, he’s the one,” he said of Garcia.

jarmendariz@themonitor.com, iortiz@themonitor.com

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