CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hundreds of Ardrey Kell High School students, teachers and parents gathered outside the school Monday to say their final goodbye to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Officer Julio Herrera, who died from COVID-19.
Herrera was a 28-year veteran of the Charlotte community, 15 of which he served as a school resource officer. Students lined the street in front of Ardrey Kell with some holding signs thanking Herrera for his work.
“He will be missed," said an emotional Patricia McKinney, who walked with her son to stand in front of the school to watch Herrera’s funeral possession. “He’s been here since the start of AK [Ardrey Kell]. His family has no idea how many lives he’s touched."
On Monday, as a procession for Herrera traveled from the high school near Ballantyne to his funeral service at First Baptist Church on South Davidson Street in Uptown Charlotte, his family would see all the people lining the streets in his memory.
CMPD Senior Chaplain Angela Pleasants said Officer Herrera specifically wanted officers to share happy memories during his funeral.
"He told one of the officers that he wanted his funeral to be one with laughter because that's what he brought to everyone else's life," Pleasants said. "If you were having a bad day, he would not let it continue. He would come alongside. He was a mentor."
Pleasants said Officer Herrera lived by five words, "You can always do better."
Jim and Lynda Geary brought a then-seven-year-old Julio Herrera, Jr. into their home as their first foster child.
During the memorial service, Geary, a retired Montgomery County, Maryland police officer, said, at the time, Julio was a victim in the worst child abuse case in the county.
"I kinda love he gave you everything," Geary said to the gathered officers. "We miss him so much. Breaks my heart."
Herrera, who had also served as the school resource officer for Providence High School, was featured on WCNC Charlotte in November 2014 after he performed the Heimlich maneuver on a high school freshman who was choking on a grape.
George Dunlap, chair for the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, said Herrera was just four months shy of retirement.
“I wanted to say to the community that COVID is real," Dunlap said. "And for all of the naysayers who think that one life lost is insignificant -- go talk to his family members.”
Ardrey Kell HS community honors officer who died from COVID-19
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