Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino grew up in Napa and was a star athlete at Napa High School, a community deeply shaken Thursday morning by the tragic loss.
"If anything ever happened he would be the first to call and say I'm here for you," family friend Jeron Jernigan said.
Former high school coach Les Franco showed ABC7 News pictures of the deputy from his days as a star football player at Napa High.
"Ricky was down to earth, real gentle giant on the campus, people loved him," he said.
Coach Franco was devastated by the news he learned late Wednesday night.
"Well the way he went, it's just non-nonsensical," he said.
The 48-year-old Mendocino County sheriff's deputy was a 26-year veteran of law enforcement. Officials say Del Fiorentino was killed Wednesday in a shootout with 32-year-old Ricardo Chaney from Oregon.
"It sounds like he didn't have a chance, that's the thing," Franco said. "He's got the guy cornered and the guy pulls out, you know, a semi-automatic, and sprays him with bullets."
Officials say Chaney sprayed the officer's patrol car with an assault rifle before running away. Chaney was later found dead following a shootout with Fort Bragg police
According to authorities, Chaney has a record of at least five arrests dating back to 2002. Police in Eugene said Thursday they have strong reason to believe Chaney was behind the death of 79-year-old George Bundy Wasson, whose body was found by fire fighters called out a house fire just after midnight yesterday.
Chaney is suspected of carjacking two men a short time later before driving to California. Police say the two carjacking victims escaped and were unharmed.
Franco describes a Napa that was a tight community in the 1980s when Del Fiorentino played football at the high school. Napa High School named Del Fiorentino to its hall of fame. His name and record and name, still revered.
A gentle giant, friends say of him.
"You just don't find people like that very often. He was an amazing, kind, gentle, loving man," Trena Harris said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.