Related stories: Jeremiah MacKay, sheriff's deputy killed by former LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner, to be laid to rest today | Live blog: Remembrances of Deputy Jeremiah MacKay | Storify: Procession for Deputy Jeremiah MacKay
SAN BERNARDINO -- Colleagues, friends and family members remembered fallen San Bernardino County sheriff's Detective Jeremiah MacKay on Thursday as a devoted deputy and family man with a great sense of humor.
Thousands of people were in attendance at the San Manuel Amphitheater to honor MacKay, who was killed Feb. 12 by ex-Los Angeles police Officer Christopher Dorner.
San Bernardino County sheriff's Capt. Lee Hamblin described MacKay as a dedicated, hard worker.
"I would refer to him as a cop's cop and I believe that is one of the highest honors we can bestow one of our peers," said Hamblin, who worked with MacKay at the Yucaipa station,
"He was the kind of guy you always wanted to be your partner. He always looked forward, never looked back."
Bagpipers performed a tribute to MacKay as his casket was carried into the amphitheater by his colleagues.
MacKay was promoted to detective in 2006 and his most recent assignment was as a detective at the Yucaipa station.
"Jeremiah was a terrific deputy and fine detective," Sheriff John McMahon said.
MacKay had a wonderful sense of humor and never took himself too seriously, McMahon said.
"He loved to laugh," McMahon said. "He laughed loudly and often. He had a distinct laugh that came from deep inside him -- the laugh of someone who truly enjoyed life."
MacKay was a member of the Inland Empire Emerald Society, a nonprofit that helps families of fallen officers, and played bagpipes at the ceremonies of fallen officers. He was responsible for the addition of bagpipe players to the Sheriff's Department's Honor Guard.
Alan MacKay, his father, shared stories from MacKay's childhood.
"Jeremiah was a fun loving kid with a gentle soul and we found out rather fast that he was an adrenaline junkie," he said.
When MacKay was 4-years-old, his father found him on the roof of the tool shed. "He wasn't bothered by heights. He wasn't bothered by anything and when he did anything he did it full speed ahead," Alan MacKay said.
MacKay at 4-years-old joined his father and a friend on a hike up San Gorgonio Mountain.
"We realized then we had quite a special little guy," Alan MacKay said.
After the hike up San Gorgonio, MacKay decided he wanted to learn to ski. He eventually became a ski instructor at Snow Valley, where he taught the Olsen twins how to ski.
"He was very proud of that," Alan MacKay said.
MacKay dabbled with the possibility of becoming a firefighter and went to school to become an EMT, but realized he wanted to be a sheriff's deputy.
"Later on he shared with me, 'dad I'm not too sure I want to do this,'" Alan MacKay said.
Jeremiah not only wanted to make a difference and serve his community, he wanted to become involved, Alan MacKay said.
"It wasn't just about serving because he could serve as a firefighter," Alan MacKay said. "He could make a difference as a firefighter, but that actually wasn't enough for him. He wanted to intervene when somebody was hurting somebody else. That's just what Jeremiah did."
MacKay volunteered to aid in the manhunt for Dorner every day, even working weekends, McMahon said.
"During the manhunt, he volunteered to search every day because he knew the area and it was important to him to stop the terror inflicted upon the region," McMahon said.
MacKay and Deputy Alex Collins, who was injured in the shootout with Dorner, initially responded to the scene, but were at a disadvantage in terms of firepower and tactical position, but they stayed.
"It was his duty to the county of San Bernardino to place his life at risk to stop an evil man. A man whose objection was to kill innocent people," McMahon said.
"Jeremiah's bravery, heroism and sacrifice will not be forgotten."