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Beloved Minneapolis police officer dies after being diagnosed with stomach cancer

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Jesse Garcia, once the face of the Minneapolis Police Department, has died after being diagnosed with stage-four stomach cancer earlier this year.

The 49-year-old police sergeant was "one of Minneapolis’ most recognizable and beloved cops" during his time as the department's public information officer, often appearing in media interviews and "missed" when he returned to investigations a couple years ago, according to the Star Tribune.

The disease apparently snuck up on the veteran cop, who revealed in February that he was diagnosed with "minimal symptoms" at the Mayo Clinic, the paper says.

Tributes to the officer began to appear on social media Thursday morning, including a farewell from the St. Paul Police Department.

And the organization that was "near and dear" to Garcia's heart – Bike Cops for Kids – has put together a memorial ride for the officer, FOX 9 reports.

Meanwhile, Bob Collins, an MPR News writer and pilot, expressed regret over having missed a chance to take the popular officer for a flight in his aircraft – a mutual friend had organized the trip, but Garcia was too ill to fly and died not long after.

Collins spoke highly of Garcia's public reputation, adding: "I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to anything more in my flying career" than taking the sergeant for a tour over the Twin Cities.

Garcia had been on leave from the department while he battled his diagnosis, the Star Tribune says.

In March, not long after his diagnosis, he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the department in connection with the "Pointergate" controversy.

According to the filing, Garcia said his career was sabotaged when one of his investigations found a connection between an armed robbery and the man who appeared in a photo with Mayor Betsy Hodges allegedly flashing "gang signs."

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