ORLANDO, Fla. – Several CrossFit locations and the law enforcement community are teaming up for a benefit workout to honor Orlando Officer Kevin Valencia, who was injured last year in the line of duty.
Orlando Police Department Officer Anthony Roland created the event, which is set to take place Saturday.
Roland recalls the night Valencia was shot.
“I pulled my phone out and I started texting him and something just didn't feel right,” Roland said.
He remembers the night of June 11, 2018, vividly.
“I was driving out towards where I knew they were and from there I heard gun shots and our 43 button went out, our emergency tone went out and I just ... went,” he said.
Roland drove up to the scene of a hostage situation where Valencia ended up being shot in the head.
“It’s difficult to try and remain in that mindframe when it’s so personal, but I’m no good to him if I’m flawed so you have to push through,” Roland said.
For Roland, Valencia isn't just a brother in blue, he's a good friend.
“On and off, in and out of the uniform, Kevin was a great man,” Roland said. “Kevin was the guy who could light up a room, he was everybody’s friend. He was very funny, he was very charismatic, he was very well likeable, very diligent and hardworking. He was somebody you could truly rely on.”
Valencia has been in a coma for more than a year.
“Kevin's condition at the moment is stable,” Roland said. “We're missing our Kevin.”
The pain has faded some for Roland, but the fight to honor Valencia has not.
“My friend put himself in between evil and the community, my partner, my brother and I don't want his memory to be forgotten,” Roland said.
That's why he created an athletic competition with Jeremy Brassard, of Armor CrossFit, and Ricardo Mendez, of CrossFit Battle, to honor Valencia and benefit his family.
“Originally when I started this event, it was to memorialize my friend and my partner,” Roland said. “Then, once we started getting deeper into it and the support we started to receive from everywhere, I realized it wasn't just for him anymore. Everybody has a Kevin.”
That's why Mendez and Brassard immediately jumped on board and got others involved to honor a man they'd never met.
“Law enforcement officers are our friends, families, clients, brothers, sisters,” Mendez said.
It hits home for Brassard, too.
“I was a cop for five years. I've lost a number of friends in law enforcement, so for me it was just a no-brainer,” Brassard said.
You don't need to be part of the gym or the CrossFit community to show your support.
“People's presence is important. It says a lot to just be there and cheer someone on,” Mendez said.
Brassard said you shouldn't let the workout intimidate you.
“We have individual variations, team variations, so anybody at any skill level is actually able to do it,” Brassard said.
In the end, it will all be worth it to honor those who have sacrificed.
“This is his memory, his torch being carried on, and for everybody else who has their Kevin, this is their memory, their torch being carried on,” Roland said.
The event, "In the Line of Duty," takes place Saturday, July 13, at Armor CrossFit in Ocoee and CrossFit Pursuit in St. Cloud beginning at 9 a.m. Donations are welcome, and you don’t have to work out to participate. Everyone is invited to come and show their support.