ORLANDO, Fla. – Family, friends and mourners gathered around 2:30 p.m. Sunday to honor fallen Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis during his funeral service at First Baptist Church of Orlando.
Lewis, 35, died in a traffic crash Monday while assisting in the search for a man sought in the fatal shooting of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton.
The funeral for Lewis was originally planned for Friday, but the Orange County Sheriff's Office announced early that morning that it was postponed until Sunday due to an emergency in Lewis' family. No other details were released.
Sheriff Jerry Demings spoke just before 3:15 p.m., sharing stories about Lewis' time with agency. He described him as a someone with an "infectious smile" and personality that everyone loved.
"Our beloved Norman Lewis now joins the ranks of more than 19,000 men and women who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice. Norm died doing what he loved best – helping others, “ Demings said.
"As sheriff, I wish I had 1,500 deputy sheriffs like Norman,” he later added.
For that reason, Demings posthumously awarded Lewis with an agency Purple Heart.
"It is my honor to posthumously present Deputy Norman with this agency Purple Heart for injuries sustained during his efforts to capture a murder suspect," Demings said.
The announcement was met with a thunderous round of applause.
Others who worked with Lewis over the years shared similar stories about how Lewis' enormous heart matched his 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound stature. Lewis was a kind, respectful deputy who loved his job and his family, but his colleagues knew that could change at the drop of a dime if they got between him and his meal.
“Someone was messing around with Norm’s food and I thought Norm was going to rip the guy’s head off and eat it like a meatball,” Cpl. Charles Samek said while recalling a luncheon. "Luckily, he didn't."
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs took the podium at about 4:30 p.m. to declare Sunday, Jan. 15 as Deputy First Class Norman Lewis Day.
“He knew and willingly accepted the responsibility of going to work every day knowing he might be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Jacobs said through tears.
Dozens gathered for a visitation for Lewis at the church on John Young Parkway Thursday night, and many more came out once again to honor the deputy Sunday.
Another funeral will be held in Lewis' hometown of Port Charlotte Monday.
Clayton's funeral services took place at the church Saturday afternoon. Family and friends gathered to remember the former master sergeant, who Orlando Police Chief John Mina posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant during the service.
Meanwhile, hundreds of law enforcement officers are still searching for accused cop killer Markeith Loyd, 41. The search expanded into Polk County on Friday.
A $100,000 reward is offered for information leading to Loyd’s arrest.
Anyone with information about Loyd is asked to call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS, or 911. Authorities said Loyd should be considered armed and dangerous.
Crimeline told News 6 that it has received at least 1,000 tips in connection with Loyd's case, but the agency said it still needs the community's help in finding Loyd.
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