HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – After more than three decades serving as an HCSO deputy, Sgt. Brian LaVigne was just one shift away from his retirement when sadly he became the 17th hero in the agency’s history to die in the line of duty.
During the annual Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony, Sgt. LaVigne’s family helped unveil his name on the HCSO Memorial Wall.
Sheriff Chad Chronister told 8 On Your Side watching that moment brought back all the emotions he had the night in January when he had to tell the family their loved one wasn’t coming home.
“It was probably by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do as sheriff,” he said.
After a virtual ceremony a year ago due the pandemic, the HCSO community was able to gather together Wednesday evening.
“It is our shared responsibility to never forget the men and women whose names are etched on the Fallen Heroes Memorial, as the impact of these 17 fallen deputies is immeasurable,” Sheriff Chronister said. “I pray that the families of our heroes will find comfort in this ceremony and know that the legacy of their loved ones will live on forever.”
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody served as a guest speaker and the ceremony included a flyover by the HCSO Aviation Unit and 21 Gun Salute.
On Jan. 11, deputies say a 28-year-old fleeing suspect crashed his car into the driver’s side of LaVigne’s cruiser in Brandon.
Travis Garrett is facing murder charges, but the state attorney’s office has declined to pursue the death penalty.
“We charged Garrett with first-degree murder because this was a deliberate, pre-meditated attack on law enforcement,” State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement. “However, that fact alone doesn’t justify the death penalty under Florida law—and after careful consideration of all the relevant factors, we’ve determined that capital punishment is not appropriate.”
Sheriff Chronister said the LaVigne family is OK with the state attorney’s decision, adding they just want the “murderer to never leave jail.”
Sgt. LaVigne’s legacy lives on with his daughter, Deputy Caitlyn LaVigne, who followed in her father’s footsteps and has worked at HCSO for nine years.
“She’s gonna exceed his expectations and carry his legacy forever,” Sheriff Chronister said.
As a member of the HCSO motorcycle unit, Deputy Katelyn Kotfila was part of the escort for Sgt. LaVigne’s funeral.
“He was about to retire,” she said. “He’d given his life to the sheriff’s office, to the community.”
Deputy Kotfila said the death of her brother Deputy John Kotfila in 2016, saving another driver from a wrong-way crash on the Selmon Expressway, inspired her to serve in law enforcement.
“This is what I needed to do to kind of keep his legacy alive,” she said. “The best way I could honor him is being the best deputy every day at work.”
Sgt. LaVigne is one of three Tampa Bay law enforcement officers to be killed in the line of duty in 2021.
Tampa Police Officer Jesse Madsen was killed when he was struck head-on stopping a wrong-way driver on I-275 in March. Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Magli was hit and killed in February while trying to throw out stop sticks during a pursuit with a drunk driver.