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`I envy all the angels in heaven'

Throughout his career, Gregg Bennallack told "Mike Delgadillo stories."

He and Delgadillo worked together for a time in the West Covina Police Department, but after Delgadillo left for a job on the Costa Mesa force, Bennallack spent decades relaying to newer officers anecdotes from and about Delgadillo that illustrated examples of good policing.

Chief among those examples were Delgadillo's ability to calm tense situations.

"Within minutes, he either had them laughing or he had them in cuffs — or both," Bennallack said.

Delgadillo, who spent 32 years with the Costa Mesa Police Department, died shortly after a single-car crash March 5 in Costa Mesa. He was planning on retiring soon.

During his memorial service in Irvine on Friday, Delgadillo was described as a true friend with the gift of gab. Family members and fellow officers also painted a picture of a 57-year-old detective devoted to his children.

Hundreds of mourners filed into Saint Thomas More Catholic Parish to the somber sounds of a bagpipe — a police funeral custom — as his coffin was ushered into the chapel.

Delgadillo's daughter Sierra reflected on the times her father would tie her hair into a ponytail to keep it out of her face. She remembered him looking funny with a scary beard, grown while working with the gang unit. She smirked at memories of him using Vicks to cure any illness and sneaking candy into movie theaters.

"I envy all the angels in heaven because my time with you here was cut short," she said.

Another daughter, Ivy, wore her father's detective's lanyard and remembered when her dad would grab the car phone charger, pretending it was a mic so he could sing the Cole Porter standard "I've Got You Under My Skin," no matter how much she protested.

Retired CMPD Lt. Clay Epperson called Delgadillo's four children "perfect, beautiful and his greatest joy."

"I will love my friends and family ferociously because that is what Mike would do," Epperson said.

Epperson recalled a time when Delgadillo's quick wit saved him from a defense attorney's trick question: "Do you ever make mistakes?"

"`You know, if you ever want testimony on that you should subpoena my wife,' " Epperson recounted Delgadillo saying, winning over jurors.

Officers from Whittier, Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach and Beverly Hills sat among victims Delgadillo had helped and their families.

The presence of victims, Police Chief Tom Gazsi said, spoke to Delgadillo's strengths as an officer.

"They've come to find your son as a friend," Gazsi told Delgadillo's parents. "It's one of the greatest credits a police officer can find."

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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