MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – Funeral services were held Friday for a Marion County Sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty earlier this week.
Family, friends and dozens of law enforcement packed the CD Joyner Auditorium in Marion to honor the life and memory of Cpl. Michael Latu. Latu received a posthumous promotion from Private First Class to Corporal during the service.
He was killed early Tuesday morning while responding to a call for service.
The crash happened around 1:05 a.m. on U.S. 76 near the U.S. 501 Bypass, according to Cpl. Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. He added the deputy was traveling east on U.S. 76 in a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe when the vehicle ran off the right side of the roadway and struck a bridge pillar.
Mary Perry, Latu’s mother, gave the audience a glimpse into his life growing up as a sports-loving child with a unique sense of humor.
“He was a very, very tiny little baby, shocking at that maybe if you saw him lately,” Perry told the crowd.
Perry said her son suffered a lot of loss with the death of his brother, David, and grandmother at a young age.
Despite that, he grew up with a passion for law enforcement.
"His calling was service and honor from the very get-go," she said. "He found his humor, he found his love, because he found the job that meant everything to him."
Those who knew Latu attested to his dedication to serving.
“He is a hard worker and a dedicated deputy and he has been good for Marion County,” Marion Assistant Fire Chief Jackie Yates said.
"He was probably the most determined and most inspirational class member we had in my opinion," Jeff Triplett said, who graduated with Latu from the state Criminal Justice Academy.
The hard work earned him a spot in the hearts of those who worked alongside him and those he served forever.
"If my son was going to die at an early age, this is exactly the way he would want to move on," Perry said.
“Mike, rest in peace brother,” Marion County Sheriff Brian Wallace said. "We’ll carry it from here.”
A post Friday morning on the Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page stated Latu has had at least one deputy or detective with him at all times.
“From The ER to autopsy, from Charleston to Columbia for donation harvest, to the funeral home, he has had a brother with him around the clock,” the post stated. “Today we will have to let go of him one final time. We are not ready.”