Cpl. Mike Roberts, Ended his watch 08-19-09. Cpl. May God rest his soul.
By JOSH POLTILOVE | The Tampa Tribune and RAY REYES | The Tampa Tribune Published: August 25, 2009 Updated: 08/25/2009 03:34 pm Cpl. Mike Roberts, NAPWDA Member LUTZ - 'Goodbye' was just too final. So before he went out on evening patrols, Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts told his wife to say something closer to a promise than a farewell: "See you in the morning." Last week the unthinkable happened when the dawn for Roberts never came. The 11-year veteran was shot to death after he confronted a man on Nebraska Avenue. On Tuesday, his wife, child, friends and others said their goodbyes at a funeral Mass at St. Timothy Catholic Church. Among a crowd of 600 in the sanctuary, there was the 3-year-old girl whose life Roberts saved; the Tampa detective who began his career with Roberts; outside, were thousands of others, mostly law enforcement officers from roughly every state and as far away as St. John's, Newfoundland, where Roberts moved when he was 8. There were also police dogs and more than 100 canine police handlers. Roberts was one of them. It was, Chief Steve Hogue said, in his eulogy, "the one assignment that was his passion." In all, about 4,000 people, including Florida's governor, Tampa's mayor and other dignitaries ? but mostly others from law enforcement ? came to pay their respects to the Clearwater native. "It's very tough," Det. Jeff Nixon said before the service. Nixon and Roberts started their police careers together. "We've been though weddings, baby showers, birthdays." Asked what he could say to Roberts' wife, Cindy, Nixon said, "We'll be there for her." Melissa Chandler, who attended the service today so she could pay her respects, said Roberts saved her daughter's life in March. Her child, Elizabeth Chandler, had run off and Roberts found her in unlocked car at her family's West Tampa apartment complex. Melissa Chandler said she never got a chance to thank the corporal for rescuing the then- 2-year-old girl, who had been missing about 45 minutes. "What he did for my family is incredible," Melissa Chandler said. "Being here is the least I could do since I could never say thank you in person." An entire city is still grappling with the senselessness of Roberts' death, the Rev. David De Julio said during the service. "Who would have ever imagined the events that took place over the last several days?" he asked the congregants. "It's bad enough this man was killed. It's worse that he's a cop. Killing a cop fractures the very foundation of how our society is built. That's why an entire city grieves." His voice breaking, Hogue recalled that Roberts and his wife met while Roberts was working an extra duty job at a bank where she worked. Both were filling in for co-workers that day. Her brother is a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, and he told her about the boring nature of some of these extra duty jobs, so she struck up a conversation with Roberts. When he left for the day, she watched Roberts walk to his car, thinking, "He is such a nice guy, it's a shame I'll never ever be able to talk to him again." But Roberts called the bank several days later to get her phone number. They were married in May 2003. Their son, Adam, he said, was "the center of their lives." Hogue recalled Wednesday, when Roberts was killed. "Cindy shared with me that she and Mike and Adam spent time together as a family before he went to work last Wednesday. She took comfort in knowing that nothing was left unsaid as he walked out the door for the last time. I believe that Mike would want us all to take time to say what needs to be said and do those things that are important in life, as we are never guaranteed tomorrow." As the service ended, Cindy Roberts walked out of the church, her arm around K-9 officer Troy Neil, who worked closely with her husband. Sgt. Mark Delage of the Tampa Police Department Critical Incident Stress Management Team, who had been with her since the night of the shooting, walked behind them. Police released a written statement from Cindy Roberts: "Last Wednesday night, I lost my best friend, confidant, husband and the father of our son. The pain is made more difficult since his death was caused by such an intentional, senseless, and violent act. "I would like to thank the media for giving us time to grieve as we prepare for Mike's final resting place. The city and the residents of Tampa have been exceptionally generous to us. Many thanks are due to police Chief Stephen Hogue and Mayor Pam Iorio. They have been very supportive and have grieved along with me. "This will be a long journey for us and I welcome your continued support and prayers as we continue to work through our grief, we would like to request that you continue to respect our privacy." Outside the church, the flag-draped coffin was surrounded by eight police officer pallbearers. Cindy Roberts, holding a red rose and escorted by Delage, faced the casket. Along with her, as it started to drizzle, were Adam and other members of her family. The pallbearers held the flag over the casket as seven other officers performed a rifle salute. Overhead, four helicopters flew in formation, one breaking off, flying high and to the right, denoting a missing man. Taps was played, and dignitaries hugged Cindy Roberts, now sitting in front of the casket. Before a church bell tolled solemnly and Roberts' casket was taken to Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Tampa police communications specialist Eddie Durkin sent out a last call for Roberts. It was the final goodbye from Roberts' fellow officers. "Lincoln 61," Durkin broadcast, using Roberts' call sign. "Lincoln 6-1; radio to Lincoln 61." But there was only silence. "10-37, corporal Roberts please respond. "Corporal Michael J. Roberts, Lincoln 61, badge 12, squad 210, and former K-9 officer, served the community for 11 years with the Tampa Police Department. He ended his watch on Aug. 19, 2009. Corporal Mike Roberts is 10-7 the remainder. May God rest his soul."