Police Sgt. Jesse Garcia is a St. Paul guy who crossed the river and became one of Minneapolis’ most recognizable and beloved cops.

For years, he was the knowledgeable, genial public information officer, a familiar face for the department and the go-to guy for reporters on deadline who needed to know the latest on a murder or a melee. In the past couple of years, Garcia had returned to investigations, and he was missed.

Now he’s embarked on a tough journey no one would choose. At the end of February, Garcia posted a Facebook photo from a Mayo Clinic hospital bed announcing that at age 49, he has Stage 4 stomach cancer. He announced on Facebook on Tuesday that he was headed home after 10 days at Mayo to continue to “fight this sneaky disease.”

“Family, friends and colleagues, What I was hoping to hold off and privately push through, I cannot any longer. Within the last 10 days, with minimal symptoms, I was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer with additional spreading,” he wrote.

Garcia, “JGAR3” to his friends, said a Caring Bridge site would go up soon. True to style, however, the gregarious guy with the troublemaker’s smile and mischievous wit added a kicker with a smiling emoji at the end to note his upcoming appearance change: “May be one of my last pics with hair.”

Any Twin Cities crime reporter in the past decade knows and likes Garcia, which is no minor professional achievement. The spokesman’s job required balancing the demands of ornery reporters crashing deadlines with the political concerns of City Hall bosses and the need to protect police investigations and public safety.

Those relationships can be precarious and volatile, but rarely were with Garcia. He rarely got angry with reporters and never got bitter at his bosses, despite the sometimes capricious nature of political favor.

A law enforcement colleague on Facebook called Garcia “everyone’s favorite Minneapolis cop.”

He still lives on the East Side and his summer ribfests bring together a boisterous mix of family, media and law enforcement personnel.

Dozens of well-wishers posted comments and prayers on Garcia’s Facebook page shortly after his announcement. He also posted a photo of a visit from a group of some of his closest pals — including other cops who came from St. Paul and work in Minneapolis.

Garcia never had a bad word to say about either of his twin towns, and now he’s got lots of good words coming his way.


Twitter: @rochelleolson