Gonzalez hears last call

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 26, 2006

Tears, tributes pour from mourners


Managing Editor

LAPLACE — With words like genuine, driven, unique and genial, Capt. Chuck Bazile described his best friend, Capt. Octavio &#8220Ox” Gonzalez. Funeral rites were conducted Tuesday for Gonzalez at St. Catherine of Sienna in Metairie by the Rev. Richard Miles of Our Lady of Perpetual Help of Kenner.

A native of Cuba, who grew up in Miami and came to Louisiana to attend Nicholls State University, where he excelled as an offensive lineman, Gonzalez found himself in leadership roles throughout his life and career. His career spanned 17 years, the last 14 with the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office, serving under Lloyd B. Johnson and Wayne L. Jones.

The mass was followed by a motorcade to St. John Memorial Gardens, where his family and friends laid him to rest. Gonzalez was shot down early on the morning of June 16.

At the cemetery, St. John Parish Sheriff Wayne L. Jones pledged to Gonzalez’s family, including his wife, Gloria, and sons Alexander and Bryson, that they &#8220will always be a member of the St. John the Baptist family.”

Jones continued, in a pledge to Gonzalez’s spirit: &#8220Ox, I make this promise to you tonight that we will stay the course. We will operate at 100 percent capacity.”

At the services in Metairie, the church was filled beyond capacity with more than 1,000 in attendance, mostly law enforcement people from across Louisiana, from as close as Jefferson Parish to as far as West Monroe.

Prominent among the mourners were the members of the Special Operations Response Team and the sheriff’s Bureau of Narcotics. SORT officers served as Gonzalez’s pallbearers.

Bazile continued, quoting from a poem of his composition: &#8220No truer a cop will there ever beŠ I lost my friend, my hero. How sad I will be.”

Assisted at the podium by Bazile, Gloria Gonzalez affirmed, &#8220He is huger than the Grand Canyon. I cannot imagine a life without him. He was the best dad.”

Fellow Nicholls State football player Reed Pere remembered a prankster and best pal. He remembered with deep concern a period when he and his friends feared that &#8220Ox” was starting to go down the wrong path, staying away from his real friends and going with a bad crowd.

At an &#8220intervention,” Gonzalez came clean with his friends – he had begun working undercover as a narcotics investigator for the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Pere also remembered a time when several NSU football alumni were invited to talk to the Nicholls team before a game in a season of struggle. While the others gave typical &#8220rah-rah” speeches, Gonzalez addressed them and &#8220talked about what it means to be a man.”

Tears fell like rain throughout the service, especially during a bagpipe rendition of &#8220Amazing Grace.” The service closed with the hymn, &#8220Just a Closer Walk with Three.”

On Airline Highway, a dozen fire trucks formed a single access lane, with two ladder trucks forming an American flag-draped archway. People lined the streets – the citizens of St. John Parish who Gonzalez died in protecting – to pay tribute to Gonzalez.

Just as the hearse drew near the cemetery gate, Cpl. Jason Guidry led a riderless horse, with boots backwards in the stirrups – a traditional tribute to a fallen hero.

The casket, draped with an American flag, was carried reverentially from the church and to its final resting place. Memorial flags were presented by Jones to Gonzalez’s two young sons, who wore blue shirts, which stated, &#8220My dad is my hero.”

Finally, at the end of the graveside service, the air crackled electronically with a &#8220PD-9 to HQ” – the traditional &#8220last call” – as tears burst forth anew from the mourners.