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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Friends, family members, and fellow officers are still coming to grips with the loss of the St. Louis County police detective who died in a head-on collision Wednesday.

A memorial at the Central County Precinct is filling up with flowers and letters in honor of fallen Det. Antonio Valentine. He was a 14-year veteran of the St. Louis County Police Department.

“He’s a shining light, a beacon of light, for so many people — and I want that to be known,” said Valentine’s best friend Michael Fletcher. “I want his light to shine forever because it deserves to shine forever because he was one of the great ones.”

Fletcher has been best friends with Valentine since they played football together at Beaumont High School. He said losing Valentine was like losing a part of himself.

“He was our foundation, our glue,” Fletcher said. “He was just superman to us.”

Valentine, 42, was driving an unmarked police vehicle when a black sedan traveling at a high rate of speed crashed into it near Crete Drive and Chambers Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors. Moments before the crash, Drug Unit Detectives attempted to stop the sedan for an investigation.

Valentine was rushed to Barnes Jewish Hospital, where he died from his injuries. Another detective, who was in the vehicle with Valentine, was treated at the hospital and later released.

“When we got word it was Det. Valentine, my heart sank, and I was in disbelief,” said Clay Farmer, a police academy instructor who taught Valentine. “I had to process what happened. Then, grief sat in thinking about his family and the officer. I know him personally.”

Police on Thursday identified the driver of the other car as 33-year-old Alfred Mayes. He also died from his injuries in the crash. Investigators said Mayes was driving a stolen Jetta.

Valentine joined the police force in 2007 and was most recently assigned to the Bureau of Drug Enforcement. He was also an Army veteran who served in Iraq.

“He was so passionate,” said Farmer “He asked questions and questions. His positive energy stood out to me among all 30 people.”

Valentine leaves behind 4 children ranging in age 10 to 22. BackStoppers said the fallen officer also fought in the ring during the 2010 Guns and Hoses fundraiser.

“I was so proud of my brother for the person a man he became and where he came from and what he’s accomplished in life,” Fletcher said with tears in his eyes. 

Fellow county officer Sgt. Ebony Miller knew Valentine for 11 years. She brought her son and her friend to Valentine’s memorial Thursday night to pay their respects. 

“In this line of work, we know that at any moment it could be our last day,” Miller said. “But you just never expect it, and you never expect somebody so close to you to be gone. He still had a job to do and now we have to finish it for him.”

A Celebration of Life Mass for Valentine will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 10, at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, located at 4431 Lindell Blvd. Military Honors and Interment will follow at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Masks are required.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Officer Antonio Antoine Valentine, click here.