A 70-year-old sheriff's deputy in California has died of his injuries after he was reportedly beaten following a minor traffic crash on the morning of New Years Eve.
Lawrence "Larry" Falce, a 36-year-veteran of the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department, was taken off life support and died on Jan. 2, according to KTLA. He never regained consciousness after the attack.
The crash that led to Falce's death occurred in San Bernardino while the deputy was off-duty, around 11 a.m. on Dec. 31. The sheriff's department described the traffic collision as "minor," according to KTLA. Following the crash, both drivers got out of their cars.
Falce "contacted the party in the other car and was brutally attacked," said the Sheriff's Employees' Benefit Association in a statement. The suspect is in custody but his name has not yet been released.
Dozens of deputies lined up to honor Falce as his body was taken from the hospital and transported to the coroner's office. A procession of deputies and law enforcement officials, including the sheriff's honor guard escorted his body. Many deputies were too emotional to be interviewed on camera, according to KCBS.
"He prided himself as being a lifelong public servant, who cared deeply about this profession," Lt. Sarkis Ohannessian said in a press release, reports KCBS. "Larry was loved by his peers and the community members he served. More importantly, he cared about so many people he called family."
Falce served in the U.S. Army before he joined the department in 1981, according to KTLA. Upon starting his career with the department, he worked at the Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center and the Central Detention Center before settling into a patrol job for the county's Central Station. He held that position for 32 years, until his death.
"Larry was a hard-working, dedicated professional, who loved his job as a deputy sheriff," said SEBA President Sgt. Grant Ward in a statement. "I worked with him and I can tell you his commitment to this profession was second to none. He was generous to all those he cared about and gave willingly from the bottom of his heart."
Falce is survived by his longtime girlfriend, Deborah, and his sister, Marjorie, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"He was one of a kind, everybody that ever knew you, knows that," Marjorie told reporters, according to KCBS. "And you're gonna leave a hole."
"That made me beyond proud that he was one of the oldest deputies I've ever known, and I know a lot of them," said Falce's nephew Robert Morrissey, according to KBCS. "And the fact that everyone was convincing him, 'You need to retire, you need to stop.' And he was like, 'Nope, I'm gonna keep on going. As long as I'm riding around in a marked patrol vehicle,' he would be happy."