With the mournful wail of a bagpipe and admonitions from a police chaplain to put aside feelings of guilt and anger, more than 2,000 members of the Los Angeles Police Department joined Mayor Tom Bradley and other mourners to bid a last farewell Friday to three officers killed earlier this week when two patrol cars collided downtown.
At the two-hour funeral service at the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, which was attended by about 3,000 people, Police Chief Daryl F. Gates told the families of the dead officers that he is certain they did not die in vain.
"In every roll call, and during every training session these three will be there . . . reminders of the lessons we need to learn," Gates said. "They will be riding on the shoulders of every officer in every radio squad car saying, 'Uh uh, don't do that.' They're going to save the lives of other police officers."
Gates apparently was referring to his order issued after the accident Monday morning for supervisors to remind officers at roll calls to buckle their lap and shoulder belts when in their patrol cars.
Survivor Wore Seat Belt
None of the three dead officers--Derrick C. Connor, 28; Manuel Gutierrez Jr., 26, and David Hofmeyer, 25--were wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. A fourth officer, Venson Drake, 28, was in one of the patrol cars but received minor injuries. He was wearing a seat belt.
The officers, all members of the Central Division, were responding to a call for assistance from detectives who had stopped four men in a stolen car on Skid Row. The patrol cars collided at the intersection of 5th and Wall streets as the car driven by Gutierrez sped the wrong way on 5th, a one-way street. Speeding in the wrong direction on a one-way street violated department policy.
It was the first time that three members of the Police Department had been killed at the same time.
At the funeral service, Sgt. Jerry Powell, a traffic officer who is the department's chief chaplain, told mourners to put aside any judgments they may have formed about the circumstances of the officers' deaths. He told them to remember that "they were in pursuit of a criminal and in pursuit of making the streets safe."
He urged officers to concentrate on comforting one another and the families of the dead.
Gates, standing behind the three flag-draped coffins surrounded by flowers and flanked by color portraits of the fallen officers, had noted during his talk that none of the three had been on the force more than four years.
"They were bright stars of the future," Gates said. "There is not an inexhaustible supply of young people out there to do this job."
When the main part of the service ended, police officers both in and out of uniform left their seats and paraded slowly in front of the caskets, many of them stopping to talk to or hug members of the three men's families. They came from departments throughout California.
The mourners then left the temple in two funeral processions, one for Gutierrez, who was to be buried in Covina, and the other for Connor, who was to be buried in Compton. Officer Hofmeyer is to be interred in Orange City, Iowa, on Monday.