PEMBROKE PINES, FLA. (WSVN) - A heartbroken community is mourning the loss of a Pembroke Pines Police motorman, one day after the veteran law enforcement officer was killed in a crash.

7News cameras captured dozens of mourners who gathered at the Pembroke Pines Police Department to remember Officer Charles Herring, Friday night.

Family members, friends and colleagues described the fallen officer as a bright light in their lives.

“He was constantly smiling. I just thought it was built into him,” said Gerald Machurick, an acquaintance of Herring.

“He was just a genuine, nice person, and I just loved that about him,” said co-worker Espy Mize.

But the 21-year veteran is gone, and for his family and co-workers, it seems that what happened along Northwest 184th Avenue late Thursday morning makes little sense.

“You want to be able to place responsibility on something. This was not that case,” said Machurick.

People have continued to stop by the spot where, police said, Herring was thrown from his motorcycle while patrolling the area south of Sheridan Street and west of Interstate 75.

“He was operating that motorcycle when a palm frond fell from a palm tree and struck the officer as he was doing nothing more than driving down the road,” said Pembroke Pines Police Chief Kipp Shimpeno during a news conference held Thursday night. “That action caused him to be thrown from the bike.”

“A motorcycle accident, male lying on the ground. Another party on site is saying that the person has no pulse, attempting CPR at this time,” a 911 dispatcher said in radio transmissions.

Paramedics transported the 54-year-old officer to Memorial Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“No family should ever have to go through this,” said Shimpeno.

Pembroke Pines Police released a statement that read in part, “It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the untimely passing of a Pembroke Pines Police motorcycle officer who died in the line of duty while serving and protecting the community.”

7News cameras on Friday afternoon captured flowers and a heart-shaped balloon at the foot of a palm tree on the side of the road. A sign depicting the thin blue line sign was attached to the tree.

“My officers all know this Pembroke Pines Police Department is a family. We’re hurting here,” said Shimpeno.

Friday night, Herring’s children and extended family joined his police family to begin the long process of saying goodbye. They signed his assigned work vehicle, lit candles and exchanged stories.

“He had a soft side, so much so that we gave him the nickname Pudding,” said Pembroke Pines Police Capt. Christopher Sengelmann, “because he loved police work, but he knew how to temper that police work with compassion for people.”

“Charlie could be going out the door, he would stop, he would turn around, he would come up to me, and say, ‘Bruce, how’s it going?'” said Bruce Eisner, an acquaintance of Herring.

“That’s what makes me now say, ‘I’m going to start saying hi to everybody,’ because you never know when the last time will be that you say hi to that person,” said Mize.

Now these mourners are focusing on the person they lost and the randomness of fate.

“I have to believe in a higher power, that somebody called him and said, ‘Hey, we need you up here,'” said Machurick. “Logically, I can’t assign it to something. I don’t see anything that could have been done differently. I just – I don’t.”

Herring would have turned 55 in March. He leaves behind four children.

Police said they do not have any funeral service information at this time.

The Broward County Police Benevolent Association has set up a fund to help Herring’s family. If you would like to make a donation, click here

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