A good cop, an airplane, and the opportunities we miss

There are many regrets I have but none bigger than a flight in the plane I never got a chance to make a couple of weeks ago.

I was contacted by Jeremy Sartain, a friend and neighbor of Jesse Garcia, the longtime spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department. For some time, Garcia has fought stomach cancer and it was clear it was going to take his life soon.

“Garcia never had a bad word to say about either of his twin towns, and now he’s got lots of good words coming his way,” the Star Tribune’s Rochelle Olson wrote after Garcia’s public announcement.

I didn’t know Garcia, but I did know he had a thing for the people he served, and the people he knew had a thing for him.

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Garcia asked Sartain, a pilot himself, to take him flying before he died. And Jeremy asked me to take on the task because the airspace around Minneapolis-St. Paul — and Garcia’s East Side neighborhood — is a little complicated.

I couldn’t imagine a bigger honor and it nicely fit the reason I built an airplane in the first place. I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to anything more in my flying career, though I was a little concerned that we were on opposite sides when it came to Pointergate.

“Just don’t tell him I wrote a bunch of stuff about it,” I said to Sartain, who replied it wouldn’t matter, even though the police chief in Minneapolis removed him from an assignment in a dispute over how alleged gang members were pursued.

We settled on the evening of Friday, June 26. I took the day off from work to get things ready so things would be perfect for the “honor flight,” as we call these things.

But it never happened. Garcia took the expected turn for the worse, and was in too much pain to go flying, his friend reported. Maybe it would ease, we hoped, though we acknowledged there was little chance it would.

It didn’t.

Garcia died very early this morning, Fox 9 News reports.