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MANDEVILLE, LA — More than 1,000 people stood shoulder to shoulder, many of them wearing their police uniforms, to say farewell to a Mandeville police officer, Captain Vincent Liberto. Police and sheriff’s offices from around the gulf coast sent representatives to help the people and police of Mandeville know that they are in the thoughts and prayers of many law enforcement agencies.
Liberto’s funeral came one week to the day, and nearly at the same time of day, that he was shot and killed by a suspect during a police chase. It started when Liberto learned of a pursuit that began in the Old Mandeville area. He joined the chase until the suspect crashed his car near the intersection of Hwy 190 and Hwy 22. That’s when the suspect opened fire on two Mandeville police officers, striking both of them. But only Liberto’s wounds were fatal.
”Today is a day of profound sadness,” Reverend John-Nhan Tran told the crowd. Tran is a priest at Mary Queen of Peace Church where the family also had a private service the previous night.
Mandeville’s mayor, Donald Villere, and the city’s police chief, Gerald Sticker, joined Liberto’s children and brother to take turns telling the crowd about the loss of a life that still has the community stunned.
Mayor Donald Villere told the crowd that the officer’s death was not a case of racism or terror but was a bad choice by the 21-year-old suspect. Villere also said that while police and people in the community cope with their grief, it does not change the fact that Mandeville is a safe place to live, retire, and relocate.
Chief Gerald Sticker called Liberto, “…a cop’s cop.” Sticker and Liberto met while serving in the military in the 1980s. Their friendship grew as they retired from the Marine Corps and moved to the Mandeville Police Department. In fact, Sticker told the crowd that he promoted Liberto to be a captain with the force just five months ago.
Liberto leaves behind a wife, seven children and three grandchildren. Three of his children served in the military as well, and two moved on to also work in law enforcement.
“All of our lives were changed that day, and we will never be the same,” Sticker said.
As Liberto’s funeral procession passed the Mandeville Police Department’s headquarters on Hwy 190, hundreds more people lined the way, many of them holding signs or flags to show their support.
”Evil will not rule the day in our community,” Sticker said.