CREATED Jul. 24, 2013
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- On the mat and rolling with his Jiu-Jitsu partners is where officer David Vanbuskirk spent most of his free time. He trained at Sergio Penha's Academy on Monday morning, just hours before he died on a search and rescue mission.
"I trained with Dave, he was very tough," friend Anthony Horovitz said. "He was a very athletic guy and I trained with him unfortunately the last day he was with us."
On Monday night, the officer fell to his death while rescuing a stranded hiker on Mount Charleston. At the gym, his friends took the news hard. The officer was a member for nine years.
"There are other Metro officers that train here," Horovitz said. "We are all like a big family."
Dozens of the gym's members stood up to share stories of Vanbuskirk on Wednesday morning. The gym's owner was there, the man with the tough reputation wiped tears from his eyes.
"Sergio Penha is one of the toughest dudes I know," member Steven Cantwell said. "So to hear his voice crack you know it's something serious."
In the officer's memory everyone took to the mat to pay tribute to Vanbuskirk who received his black belt in 2007. Friends said he was also working to become a Metro Sergeant.
"Dave trained extremely hard in Jiu-Jitsu and he also worked extremely hard in life," friend Raymond Winters said.
Those who worked out Wednesday could make a donation to the officer's family. So far the gym raised about $7,000 and that amount could increase.
The Mount Charleston Baptist Church is also doing its part to honor the life of Officer Vanbuskirk. They're holding a candlelight vigil beginning at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
The church is located on Kyle Canyon Road near the Mount Charleston Resort.