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"It was his honor to help you": A legacy of service left by Officer Manny Ortiz

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There has been a continued outpouring of support and love from people across the Rochester community since the death of Rochester Police Officer Manuel 'Manny' Ortiz last weekend. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - There has been a continued outpouring of support and love from people across the Rochester community since the death of Rochester Police Officer Manuel 'Manny' Ortiz last weekend.

Ortiz died Saturday evening after he accidentally shot himself while driving down Empire Blvd. in Penfield.

Ortiz's fellow officers, friends and family have all extended their condolences and shared their stories of a man dedicated to his job and his community.

Every day on the job, Manny Ortiz wore RPD blue. Week in and week out, for 22 years, the man deeply understood the meaning behind the law enforcement motto 'Serve and Protect.'

"Manny could have been a cop without a badge or a gun," said Luis Aponte, a friend and fellow first responder. "Manny did not expect you to respect him. He felt it was his honor to be in your presence. It was his honor to help you."

That attitude served him well when he walked the East End bar beat at closing time.

"He was really just so authentic that whether you were under the influence of alcohol or being a tough guy, Manny had this vibe of composure and caring that just made people go, 'Whoa,'" said Phil Fitzsimmons, who owns a bar in the East End.

While out one night in the East End district, Anthony Washington was playing it a bit fast and loose. He told 13WHAM's Jane Flasch that he could have been arrested, but Officer Ortiz had something else in mind.

"The first thing he said to me was, 'You're way too big to be handling people and not getting paid for it,'" Washington said.

The next thing he knew, Washington was in security training. Ortiz paid for it. He did the same for two other young men, inadvertently created a set of brothers bound by blood.

MORE: Hundreds mourn, celebrate life of RPD Officer Ortiz at public memorial service

MORE: Photos from memorial service for RPD Officer Manny Ortiz

Raul Martinez, a friend of Ortiz, said the man just had a knack for knowing when he was needed. He would step in at just the right time.

"At one point in my life, I needed somebody," Martinez said. "I needed that big brother. He was there. He was there."

Adrian Franco had the same experience.

"You don't get men like that," Franco said. "They don't make them like that anymore. He made everyone feel like family."

During a news conference earlier in the week, Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary called Ortiz a giant on the force. But beyond that, Manny Ortiz was the people's cop - that is the legacy that endures.

"That is a man I can only aspire to be," said Santos Cruz, a Rochester firefighter. "I want to live my life in such a way to best represent and mirror the type of man he was."

Ortiz was 52. He is survived by his fiancee and three children.

In lieu of flowers, the Rochester Police Department has set up a scholarship fund for Ortiz's children. Anyone wishing to donate can do so.

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