HOUSTON (Reuters) - More than 10,000 law enforcement officers from across the United States attended the Houston funeral of Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth on Friday, remembering him as good-natured man who brought dignity to the profession.
Goforth, 47, was fatally shot on Aug. 28 as he fueled a patrol car at a Houston-area gas station. His flag-draped coffin was attended by an honor guard as Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked residents to use the funeral to honor those who protect the peace.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said officers responding to calls for help will be doing so in Goforth's honor.
"The loss of an officer ripples throughout the community that we serve for without them, we are without a guardian of the peace that we so frequently take for granted," Hickman said at the funeral. "Darren Goforth was one of the good guys, one that made a difference."
Goforth was honored with a 21-gun salute as hundreds of patrol cars lined roads to the service at Second Baptist Church.
About a week before his death, Goforth bought matching Captain America shirts for himself and his son. Goforth was to be buried wearing the T-shirt under his uniform, while his young son wore the shirt to the funeral. The deputy is also survived by a wife and daughter.
A friend since childhood, Roland De Los Santos, who is a Houston police officer, said Goforth was a genuine man who loved to laugh.
Law enforcement officers across the state turned on their vehicle's red and blue lights for a minute at the start of the funeral.
Shannon Miles, 30, has been charged with capital murder, which can bring the death penalty. He is accused of emptying a 15-round handgun into Goforth's back and head in an ambush-style attack.
Sheriff Hickman has previously linked the shooting to anti-police rhetoric that has been used in recent "Black Lives Matter" protests against the killing of unarmed black men by white officers. Goforth was white and the suspect is black.
Almost all of the "Black Lives Matter" rallies have been peaceful, but police have been killed by suspects who said they were out for revenge for the treatment of African-Americans.
“I’m here to not only support the officer who was killed but all of the officers who are here today,” area resident Maria Rodriguez said. “People are talking about black and white and it’s about a life.”
Reporting by Dennis Spellman; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by G Crosse and Eric Beech