Photo gallery: Honor Guard Transports Body of Deputy Killed in Dorner Gun Battle
SAN BERNARDINO - Bagpipes played solemnly as Honor Guard members gathered Thursday for a somber, impromptu ceremony before the body of slain San Bernardino County sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah MacKay was taken to a nearby mortuary.
Law enforcement officials saluted and about two dozen county employees stood outside the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner's Office to pay their respects as MacKay's flag-draped casket was loaded into a hearse and escorted by sheriff's and police vehicles to Mountain View Mortuary on Highland Avenue.
Funeral services for MacKay are still being planned, a sheriff's official said Thursday..
"He was a delightful guy and he will really be missed," said sheriff's Capt. Rick Ells, of the Twin Peaks station, where the flag was at half-staff on Thursday.
MacKay, a 35-year-old father of two, was killed Tuesday in the San Bernardino Mountains while pursuing Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles police officer. Dorner was found dead in a burning cabin in the Barton Flats area after a shootout with authorities.
Dorner, 33, is suspected of killing two people in Irvine on Feb. 3, a Riverside police officer on Feb. 7 and finally MacKay.
To many, MacKay was a true hero, a gentle Scotsman who played the bagpipes and had a great sense of humor.
He always wanted to be a police officer and went to the sheriff's academy when he was young and started with the department when he was just 20, Ells said.
"He had a wonderful sense of humor - he was quite the character. He would sometimes bring his lunch in a Hello Kitty lunch pail. He was a really fun guy and a terrific worker. He played the bagpipes and was very much in touch with his heritage. I loved to tease him about that," Ells said.
MacKay was promoted to detective in 2006 and served at the Twin Peaks sheriff's station for two years before working out of the Big Bear area and then Yucaipa, Ells said.
The Rim of the World High School graduate was loved by many in the mountain communities, as the MacKay clan was a prominent pioneer family in the area. Multiple generations of the family served the mountain.
"Just to know he walked these halls in his high school life, an important time in our lives, impacts all of us," said Rim of the World Principal Catherine Obregon, "just knowing that he did so much with his life after high school."
MacKay's grandmother, Audrey MacKay, was also involved in community projects.
"Audrey MacKay managed Lake Arrowhead Village back in the days the village owned the lake.
"I lived up here all my life, and my parents were friends with Audrey and her husband, Alan, who was killed in a car crash in the 1950s. Jeremiah's father, Alan MacKay, was a fireman here forever. They were extremely important in the mountains."
Jeremiah MacKay was an all-around athlete in school who played on the Scots' football, volleyball, tennis and ski teams.
As a senior in 1995, MacKay's sense of humor was encapsulated when he wrote in his Rim Scots Yearbook, "I love God, family and everybody who says 'hi' to me. I also love Rosa Maria's burritos."
MacKay was the sergeant-at- arms for the Inland Empire Emerald Society, a Corona-based nonprofit that helps families of Inland Empire law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. He was the group's lead piper and played bagpipes on numerous occasions in remembrance and support of other fallen officers, according to the society's website.
The society will host its annual Great Guinness Toast in MacKay's honor at 8 Friday at Shamrocks Pub and Grill, 1275 Magnolia Ave., Corona. The annual toast will raise money for the Society's Fallen Officer Memorial Fund. The society is collecting donations for MacKay's family and for the family of Riverside police Officer Michael Crain, who was also killed by Dorner, authorities said.
Staff writer Sandra Emerson contributed to this report