They came to stand in the cold rain with candles Tuesday evening in Yucaipa to pay tribute to San Bernardino County sheriff's Detective Jeremiah MacKay, one week after he was slain in a final confrontation with fugitive multimurder suspect and ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner.
Strangers, residents of Yucaipa, Redlands and the San Bernardino Mountain communities, deputies, police and firefighters stood together to pay tribute to MacKay, who got into law enforcement "so other people wouldn't get hurt," his father, Alan MacKay, who flew in from Colorado on Wednesday, told the gathering.
"This whole ordeal has been overwhelming to my wife, myself, my daughter, and our family," Alan MacKay told the people gathered in the pouring rain. "But the support that we've received out there for my son, the love that we see, and the compassion that we see, is just incredible.
"It does lift our spirits, and it reminded me that Jeremiah was the type of guy that wanted to make a difference. He wanted to serve. He wanted to serve in a different way than I did. I couldn't talk him into being a firefighter. He thought that was boring.
"He wanted to be able to make a difference in a different way. He wanted to be able to intervene when people were being hurt. And that's why he was in the position that he was in, because the thing that bothered him the most was when other people got hurt, and he wanted to be able to stop that.
"So it's fitting that he was doing just exactly what he wanted to do, and he died loving his job, and serving the community. We all need to take with us the philosophy Jeremiah had, 'Live every moment to its fullest. Love your fellow human being, and never take anybody in your life for granted.'
"On behalf of my family, we thank you for this out turn of gratitude for our son, and I want to leave you with a fitting verse that came to my mind when this whole thing happened.
'"First John, 3:16. No greater love hath any man, but to lay down his life for his brothers.' Thank you."
The MacKay family comes from "the very northern part of Scotland," Alan MacKay said after the vigil.
"Jeremiah and I were pretty active in our Scottish heritage," Mackay said. "It's just something that's a part of our family. . . . Just about everything he did, he did with full force.
"He had this incredible intensity when he took something on. He did it to his fullest. To give you an idea, Jeremiah, when he was four years old, hiked to the top of San Gorgonio with me, with a backpack on his back. To the top of the highest mountain in Southern California."
San Gorgonio Mountain is estimated 11,499 feet above sea level.
"Another firefighter and I wanted to prepare ourselves for a hike in the Sierras, and that was part of the preparation. . . . He wanted to go. I said it's an awful long hike, it's an incredible mountain. He said, 'No, we can do it, Dad.' The only part we carried him was over the glaciers, because all he was wearing was tennis shoes. It just showed me the determination he had, even at such a young age."
MacKay's sister, Angie Reynolds, 32, said she and Jeremiah grew up in Lake Arrowhead and attended Rim of the World High School together.
"I absolutely know he's in Heaven," Reynolds told Redlands-Loma Linda Patch at the end of the vigil at Yucaipa Community Park. "There's no question in my mind. And I know he's looking down on us, and he's helping us out as much as he can right now."
Sheriff's Capt. Lee Hamblin, chief of police for Yucaipa, and Doug Duke, chaplain for the sheriff's Yucaipa Station, also spoke at the vigil.
MacKay, who worked in Big Bear and Yucaipa, was a 15-year veteran with the department, Sheriff John McMahon said Wednesday. He was father of a 7-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son. He was a resident of Redlands.
His funeral is planned at 11 a.m. Thursday Feb. 21 at the San Manuel Amphitheatre, 2575 Glen Helen Parkway.
MacKay, fatally shot Feb. 12 in a confrontation with Dorner east of Angelus Oaks, was the second law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty during the ex-cop's alleged rampage. They both had local ties to Redlands and Yucaipa.
Authorities believe Dorner is accountable for four killings in the space of ten days: a former LAPD captain's daughter and her fiancé in Irvine on Feb. 3, Riverside police Officer Michael Crain on Feb. 7, and MacKay on Feb. 12.
Crain was a graduate of Redlands High School and he attended Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa before he joined the Marine Corps. He was a resident of Beaumont. His funeral was Wednesday in Riverside and he was laid to rest at Riverside National Cemetery.
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