It’s been more than two months since Nassau County Dep. Eric Oliver was killed but the tragedy is still fresh in many people’s minds.
The pain of that loss has been especially difficult for his partner, who was there when Oliver was hit by a car.
For a while, Dep. Garth Holton couldn’t come near the memorial for Oliver on State Road 200.
“I would go back roads to go home,” said Holton. The memorial sits a few feet away from the spot where Holton not only lost his partner, but someone he considered his brother.
“I like the flag flying there so everybody sees it remembers what happened,” said Holton. Holton has been with the sheriff’s office only a year, but he’s already faced every officer’s worst nightmare.
“I don't think there's anything you can do to prepare for it. I don't care how long you're in the job,” said Holton.
It was Nov. 22, 2016, just two days before Thanksgiving. Holton and Oliver, who patrolled neighboring zones, always started their day eating breakfast together.
“I got a call at the Gate station, we just happen to be there, totally separate call, and then right after that-- from there, it kind of just went downhill quick,” said Holton.
Border patrol agents were also at that Gate station. They were questioning six men in a truck when they asked Holton and Oliver for back-up.
One of those men was Francisco Portillo Fuentes, who was in the country illegally and had already been deported twice before. He took off running, and so did Holton and Oliver.
“I made it across 200 and into this grassy median, roughly where that tree is and about the time I got there is when I heard the impact, and as soon as I heard it, I knew what it was,” said Holton.
Despite efforts to save him, Oliver died at the scene.
“Do you blame anybody for what happened?” asked reporter Lorena Inclan.
“I wouldn't say I blame anybody, but the fact is if we wouldn't have been chasing after him it wouldn't have happened,” said Holton. Holton showed Action News Jax a shadow box filled with memories of his partner, it was a gift from his wife for Christmas.
“It's a tough reminder but I like it, it was nice,” said Holton. Holton agreed to speak with us to keep Oliver’s memory alive so that everyone knows what he stood for.
“He treated everybody the same. He didn't care who you were. He didn't care how many times he dealt with you or seen you,” said Holton.
Holton still keeps in touch with Oliver’s 6-year-old daughter and often thinks about her. For him, knowing she’s now left without a dad has been the hardest part.
“She knows that I’ll be there any time she needs to talk to somebody,” said Holton. Holton now visits Oliver’s memorial to make sure it’s kept up and he even bring his kids.
“What do you think about when you come down here?” asked Action News Jax reporter Lorena Inclan.
“Just the good times we had and everything we've done. There was stuff that we wanted to do,” said Holton.
Dreams cut short, but Oliver's memory lives on. His life lessons to a fellow officer, his friendship, his love of family, are all tributes to a life lost but never forgotten,
Holton said he would eventually like to see a more permanent memorial on State Road 200 in honor of Oliver.
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