Longtime West Palm Beach police Sgt. William Nealy died Wednesday at age 44 after a lengthy struggle with cancer, the police department said.
“Our beloved Sgt. William Nealy will be greatly missed by all who knew him. God bless your family and friends; Rest In Peace Sarge,” said the note, posted on the department’s Facebook page at about 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Sgt. David Lefont said Nealy had been with the department since February 2007.
A webpage set up a month ago to raise $25,000 for Nealy’s family was past $34,000 by Thursday morning.
According to the page, Nealy worked with the juvenile unit of the department’s community response team and “has worked tirelessly to combat gang violence and bridge gaps between Law Enforcement and the community he serves.”
Nealy also helped run “Cops & Scholars,” a program that hosted weekly lunches and dinners with young people.
Nealy was highlighted in a 2016 Palm Beach Post feature about police trying to connect with youth in the city's troubled Northwest neighborhood.
“There’s good people and there’s bad people. And there’s good people that make bad decisions,” he said in the story.
Nealy, known as “6-9” in the neighborhood because of his height, covered the neighborhood for more than a decade and seemed to know nearly everyone’s story.
“I tell my guys: You’re going to learn so much more talking to these guys than sitting in your car and looking at your computer all day. Don’t talk to the guy who’s lying down there shot. Talk to the people that are around: the parents, the kids, the aunt, the uncle, the ones standing to the side,” Nealy said.
“Who knows how many shootings we stopped? Or homicides? You can’t count statistics for things that don’t happen,” he said.
Nealy is survived by his wife, Heather, and two sons, ages 13 and 4.
Funeral details were not yet available Thursday.
An event to raise money for Nealy's family was set for 1 p.m. Sunday at Beach Club Lake Worth at the Lake Worth Golf Club.