A veteran Miami police officer who loved motorcycles, dominoes and cigars and whose son followed him into law enforcement, was laid to rest Friday after a lengthy and moving service that was even attended by the governor.
Miami Police Maj. Jorge Sanchez, killed Tuesday when the Harley Davidson he was riding home from work was rear-ended into oncoming traffic, was remembered as a loving father, a softball superstar and a cop who cared about the people he was charged with serving and protecting.
During his 21-year career in Miami, Sanchez, 56, racked up 50 commendations — more than a third of them from citizens thanking him for the way they were treated or how he treated others.
“Words can’t console you. I can’t tell you anything that will make you feel better,” Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes told Sanchez’s fiance and three children. “But know that you’ve been adopted by a family that will never forget.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who ordered all flags in the state at half-mast Friday promised Sanchez’s life will never be forgotten.
“He woke up each morning and every day and made the harrowing decision to put his life on the line,” the governor told the crowd at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium.
But it was Sanchez’s daughter Elizabeth who offered the morning’s most poignant moment.
“He was the joy behind my smile. But most importantly, he was my best friend,” she said. “He will continue to serve and protect our city from above. Daddy, I love you.”
Sanchez, 56, moved to Miami from Cuba in 1979 with his mom and his dad, a former Cuban political prisoner. He began his police work late, attending Miami Senior High and working security jobs before getting a job with the Miami Parking Authority.
He joined the police force at 35, working in Coral Way and as a detective in major investigations before working his way up to a major in traffic enforcement where he could drive his beloved Harley.
Sanchez, 56, was killed Tuesday afternoon when the driver of an Infiniti G37 rear-ended the motorcycle cop while he was on his bike heading home from work. Sanchez was the first vehicle in the left turn lane of Southwest Eighth Street heading east. The force pushed him into oncoming traffic heading north on 137th Avenue.
The pinball effect of the violent collision left two others in critical condition and sent several other drivers to local area hospitals. The Florida Highway Patrol, which is investigating the incident, has not yet issued any tickets or made any arrests.
On Friday morning Sanchez’s life was celebrated at the historic county auditorium on West Flagler Street. The major roadway was shut down from Southwest 27th Avenue and for a few blocks north.
Motorcyle police and honor guard lined the roadway and the front entrance to the historic auditorium that is more accustomed to hosting concerts, plays and celebrations.
After an hour-long mass, speakers — friends and family — took the stage, a giant U.S. flag covering the wall behind them, Sanchez’s flag-covered basket set in front of a simple podium holding two candles and a cross.
“My father was my role model. We shared a love of sports,” said son Eric, also a Miami cop. Then, talking directly to his dad, Eric said, “I will do my best to make sure the rest of the family is taken care of.”
Afterwards, Sanchez was laid to rest at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn North Cemetery.