Funeral for slain Tampa security officer, Michael Valentin, brings tears and praise

7:04 PM, Nov 30, 2012   |    comments
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New Tampa, Florida -- It was an emotional funeral today for Michael Valentin.

The 38-year-old security officer was gunned-down at an apartment complex in Tampa the night before Thanksgiving.

Today hundreds of friends, family members and colleagues came to say good-bye at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in New Tampa.

Friends say Valentin was fiercely loyal to his friends and family, and even had the words "family" and "brotherhood" tattooed on his arms.

Valentin grew up on some of the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York.

He became a cop for NYPD, and walked the beat on those same streets for 10 years before he made the move to Florida.

But just a month after taking the job as a security officer for Critical Intervention Services, a private security company, he was shot dead at a Tampa apartment complex during what police believe was an attempted robbery.

Inside St. Mark's they celebrated Valentin's life with song and prayer.

At 38, he already accomplished so much.

He was a loving husband to his wife Nikki, and father, to 9-year-old Keyshaun and 4-year-old M.J.

"It's like he could have chosen the wrong path, but he didn't," said Victor Font, who remembers growing up with Michael in the tough housing projects of Brooklyn, New York.

Friends since they were just teenagers. Font recalls that when some of their friends were resorting to a life of crime, Michael always seemed to walk on the path of justice.

"He chose to do the right thing by us, by his family, now his kids," said Font.

The irony, of course, is that Valentin's alleged killer is also a teenager who'd grown up facing similar choices and economic hardship.

Michael's family could only speculate what might have happened the night he paths crossed paths with 16-year-old Larry Brown.

"You didn't have to take his life. You know it's just a burden we're going to have to carry of why you did it," said Font.

Mario Sanchez, Valentin's brother-in-law, thinks it's possible Michael would have tried to reason with Brown.

"If he pulled a pistol on him, Michael was more of a mediator. He wouldn't have really reacted to violence. He would have mostly just calmed the person down if anything," said Sanchez.

Valentin was a big New York Giants fan, and liked playing video games, too.

He worked 10 years with NYPD before he made the choice to move to Florida to be closer to family.

That sense of loyalty, say relatives, was always so important to him.

Even though Valentin had only been working as a security officer with Critical Intervention Services for a little over a month, his supervisor, Maj. Hector Rodriguez, who hired Valentin, made a personal vow.

"I will take-on the responsibility to ensure that his kids and his wife are taken care of," he told the crowd.

A short time later, as tears flowed, C.I.S. put out a system-wide call on their radio communications, retiring Valentin's call-number, E-265.

"Be advised, Echo 265 is not in service," the radio voice announced. "He served with distinction and will always be in our hearts. Operations to Echo 265, you are appreciated and you will be missed. But never forgotten."

Family members say they didn't want to speak much about Brown.

No matter what happens his family will still be able to see him, they said, even it's from behind bars.

"We don't get to see Mike again," said Font, "That's a choice he took away from us."

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