MODESTO -- Hundreds of people attended a vigil for fallen Modesto police Sgt. Mike Pershall on Thursday night.
"His peers named this 'Be Like Mike.' And that's because he was an example of everybody, of what it's like to be a neighbor and a friend," said Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll.
That's why it's hitting everyone so hard. Pershall was 38 years old and a nine-year veteran of law enforcement, a K-9 handler and a field training officer. Off duty, he was a husband and father.
Hundreds of people honored Pershall's service, his sacrifice and his friendship -- lining up at a baseball diamond Thursday night for his vigil.
Pershall was off duty Tuesday evening, riding his bicycle along Merle Avenue. Police say 32-year-old Matthew Gibbs hit him from behind. Gibbs is suspected of driving under the influence.
"It happened in our city, and our guys responded, so it's like finding a family member who has fallen," Carroll said.
Carroll said when Pershall was hit and killed he was training for a peace officer's memorial ride.
"He meant a lot to us," said friend Natalie Cummins.
Cummins was a close friend of the Pershalls. She left a note on his squad car, thanking him for being good to her girls.
"Christine had my daughter in her home, at six weeks old, and Mike was always there protecting them," Cummins said.
It's the way Pershall made people feel that they will hold dearest. It's what the police department mentions when they tell their officers how to best honor him.
"I encourage you to be like Mike. Thank you."