Family, friends and fellow officers gathered at the First Baptist Church of Ocala Monday for the funeral of Ocala police Officer Jared Forsyth.
As the department remembered their fallen brother, they tried to they tried to remain strong and remind the other police officer involved in his death, that it wasn’t his fault.
Mourners came from across the state to pay their final respects to the 33-year-old New York native with a long family history of police, fire and military service.
“He loved our team, he loved his job and he loved what it meant to be a policeman,” said Ocala police officer Casey Walsh.
Forsyth was killed April 7 when another officer was unloading his .40-caliber Glock during a semi-annual training session at Lowell Correctional Institution’s firing range.
The bullet ricocheted off a bench and entered Forsyth’s arm and chest, missing his bulletproof vest. He was rushed to the Ocala Regional Medical Center where he died during surgery.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, but Forsyth’s father, Tim Haley Sr., said it isn’t necessary.
“There’s no one to blame,” Haley said. “I can’t speak on the circumstances of the actual shooting, but know this -- the gun wasn’t pointed in my son’s direction. I believe he could have been in bank vault in downtown Ocala and this bullet would have found him.”
Forsyth was completing his third year with the department and was known for his ability to make others laugh.
“Jared, I’d like to say to you -- you are my brother, my friend, and my partner and I love you,” said fellow Officer Michael Diesso.
A memorial marker was placed in Forsyth’s honor at Highlands Memorial Park Monday afternoon.
As officers gave Forsyth a fitting send-off, both they and the Forsyth family turn their attention to helping the other officer.
“I will because of the memory of my son choose not to be broken. I choose to honor Jared. I choose to be better,” Haley said.
“I’m a father and I don’t know if I would have had the strength to stand up there and say those words with that amount of compassion and true genuine care that he did,” said Ocala police Chief Greg Graham.
Though welcomed by the family, we’re told the other officer chose not to attend the services and is receiving counseling.
Meanwhile, the chief announced all firearms training has been suspended until they can complete a thorough review of their practices.
Forsyth will be buried in his hometown of Lockport, New York, near Buffalo.