Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti was scheduled to be a celebrity judge for the chili cook-off at a benefit car show held over the weekend for the late Sgt. Chris Reyka, who was shot to death behind a Walgreens store in Pompano Beach while on duty two and half years ago.
But for some reason, Lamberti stood up the benefit Saturday at the Police Benevolence Association headquarters on State Road 84. BSO sources tell me that many deputies there who worked alongside Reyka, a 51-year-old husband with four children, and who have been trying to arrest his killers were extremely upset about the sheriff's unexplained no-show.
It's important to note that the sheriff's angering absence very well may be completely understandable. I'm waiting for an explanation.
UPDATE MONDAY, 10:57 AM: Sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal just responded that Sheriff Lamberti "did not commit to being a celebrity judge - the [benefit] organizers did that on their own." I am doing some further reporting and will update in a later post.
Read the story inside.
One of the organizers of the event was BSO Dep. Brian Donnelly, who was the first deputy at the scene after the shooting and was with Reyka when he took his final breaths. In Reyka's honor, Donnelly founded the 9463 Foundation for Florida's Fallen Officers.
"I was fortunate enough to have the honor of comforting Chris as he slipped from this life, and in that moment, I made it my mission to increase awareness and ease the suffering of survivors," Donnelly writes on the 9463 Foundation's website. "Chris's passing was the birth of a new beginning -- the start of something that codifies the spirit in which Chris lived his life and served his fellow citizen: The 9463 Foundation for Florida's Fallen Officers."
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One event organizer, Russ Gagliano, said nobody seemed to know why the sheriff failed to make it to the benefit. I have relayed the question to the sheriff's media relations department and will update with the answer. "It was a shame," said Gagliano, who owns Russ G Classic Cars on State Road 84. "But I'm sure he got called out to something."
Despite the sheriff's absence, the event was a big success, Gagliano said. There was upward of 500 people in attendance, live entertainment, and an appearance by rock guitarist Richie Supa, a onetime member of Aerosmith. Supa, by the way, is a friend and supporter of Lamberti's archrival, Scott Israel, whom Lamberti beat at the polls in 2008. Supa and Israel attended the event together.
A BSO source said deputies there were "livid" about the seeming snub.
"Whatever his excuse is, it better be good," said the source. "He could have at least called."