GARDEN GROVE — Their badges wrapped in black bands of mourning, police officers from throughout the West gathered Monday for a tearful tribute to Officer Howard Ellsworth Dallies Jr., who was gunned down last week during an apparent routine traffic stop.
Dallies, a veteran officer who helped train recruits and was soon to be promoted to sergeant, was remembered as a "fallen hero" in a moving ceremony at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove.
A well-liked officer and father of two, the 36-year-old patrolman was the third Southern California police officer to be slain on duty since Feb. 22. Two others have been injured in shootings in the past week.
"I do not feel that Howard is a hero simply because of his untimely death at the hands of a cowardly assassin," Garden Grove Sgt. George Jaramillo said of his slain colleague. "I feel strongly that Howard is a hero because of the way he lived his life. Howard Dallies typified our department's motto as he lived his life with courage, courtesy and commitment."
Choking back tears, Jaramillo added: "To his family, Howard is a hero because he was a loving and warm father. To his police family, Howard is a hero for countless reasons. To me, Howard is a hero because he embodies the word Big Brother , always looking out for us."
More than 4,000 people--including Gov. Pete Wilson, Los Angeles Police Chief Willie Williams, Orange County Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez, and officers from federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies--crammed into the Crystal Cathedral's vast sanctuary, squatting in aisles and standing in the rear of balconies. A rainbow of uniforms--tan, khaki green, navy, sky blue and dress-white--filled the auditorium as a Dallies family portrait beamed down from a huge video screen.
"Everybody can relate to it--every day a guy goes to work he can relate to it," Garden Grove Police Sgt. Bill Willis said in an interview to explain the massive turnout of officers from as far away as Utah; Keane County, Washington, and National City in San Diego County. "It's just too close to home."
Dallies' gun was still strapped in its holster when he was shot in the face and abdomen about 2:45 a.m. on March 9, apparently while making a traffic stop in a quiet residential neighborhood in Garden Grove. He was the fifth officer from Garden Grove, and the 31st in Orange County, to be killed while on duty since 1912. He was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot.
Police have recovered a motorcycle that they believe had been stolen by the gunman and have released a composite sketch of the possible suspect. A reward of at least $10,000 has been offered for anyone who provides information leading to an arrest.
"Howard Dallies wore the badge of a police officer, a peace officer," Elder Whitney Clayton of the Mormon Church said of the slain officer, whose wife and sons are practicing Mormons. "That small badge is nevertheless a very large symbol."
"Howard wore the badge exceedingly well," Clayton told the mourners. "He chose to be a peace officer. Thus, he enjoyed many daily opportunities to be a good man. I believe it was a noble choice."
Monday's hourlong memorial service was followed by a seven-mile procession, a massive checkerboard of black-and-white patrol cars moving slowly through the city's streets to Westminster Memorial Park.
As the motorcycles and cars crawled along Chapman Avenue, lights whirling, Garden Grove residents stood solemnly on the street. One group held makeshift cardboard placards reading "R.I.P. Little Howdy" and "We Love You."
At the cemetery, a chilling bagpipe version of "Amazing Grace" tore through the cool, breezy air as the pallbearers marched into place with the coffin, draped in an American flag. A phalanx of Garden Grove officers formed a horseshoe around Dallies' wife, sons and father, who held hands as they sat at graveside.
Hundreds of mourners wore round black buttons on their lapels with the simple statement: "HOWARD DALLIES--COP."
Marines from the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station honored Dallies with a 21-gun salute. Three helicopters from local police agencies flew overhead in a "missing-man formation." And dozens of white birds were released as officers who had worked closely with Dallies laid their white gloves on his gun-metal gray coffin.
Mary Dallies, his widow and an Irvine police dispatcher, stared at the coffin, closing her eyes to control the tears as the grave was dedicated and the flag folded. After Garden Grove Police Chief Stanley Knee presented her with the flag, she pulled it close to her chest, shuddering with sobs as the echoing notes of taps rang through the trees.
Dallies also is survived by his sons, Christopher, 7, and Scott, 4, and his father, Howard Dallies Sr. At the funeral, Jaramillo quoted Christopher as saying, "I think my dad was a very special man and very kind. . . . He was shot but is not forgotten."