ATLANTA — Hundreds of law enforcement officials paid tribute Friday to two Atlanta police officers killed when their helicopter crashed during a search for a missing boy last weekend.
Officers Richard J. Halford, 48, of Lithia Springs, and Shawn A. Smiley, 40, of Lithonia, died in the crash a week ago tonight. The 9-year-old boy was found wandering on a street a couple of hours after the crash.
On Friday, a motorcade lined up at Turner Field for a procession to Jackson Memorial Baptist Church for the funeral of Halford, a pilot who had served with the Atlanta Police Department for 26 years.
“Every single person I’ve met that knew Officer Halford said he was a police officer’s police officer. A man’s man, who loved his family, loved his daughter and loved doing his job,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said.
Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin said he had had a conversation with Halford about what he would do if his helicopter experienced trouble.
“He told me that if anything ever happened, I’m going to find an empty street and set it down. And that’s what he did,” Martin said. “Richard served with courage and he died being courageous,” Martin said.
The helicopter hit a power line pole, and part of its landing gear got tangled up in cables before the rest of it plummeted to the street.
A funeral was scheduled today for Smiley at First Baptist Church of Atlanta.
Smiley, a tactical flight officer, joined the department two years ago. Both men were fathers. Smiley had three children under the age of 10.
The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the cause of the crash.