ARLINGTON — Through the day and into the night Thursday, people keep stopping by to leave flowers and mementos on the squad car of Officer Jillian Smith.
She was gunned down Tuesday night while investigating a domestic violence case.
Smith is credited with saving the life of an 11-year-old girl whose mother, Kimberly Carter, was also killed that night. The girl is in the process of writing her a letter of thanks to the slain officer. she also wants to leave flowers.
More than 100 people participated in a Thursday evening vigil to honor Smith and Carter at the Arbrook Park apartments, where the shootings took place. Neighbors remembered two lives lost with song and prayer.
"Even though evil came in, we can come out and show that we are strong," said resident Ernest Baylor.
The families of both victims were touched by the show of community support.
"It tears my heart that my sister is gone... gone," said Candace Washington, Carter's sister. She worries about the impact of the tragedy on her 11-year-old niece.
"I don't want her to forget one thing about her mom, and we are going to make that possible," Washington said.
They will also not let her forget the supreme sacrifice that Officer Smith made to protect her. "She is very, very happy that the officer did her job, and she really appreciates her," Washington said. "Every time we talk about it, she says, 'That lady saved my life.'"
For the first time on Thursday, Smith's parents, sister and other relatives visited her squad car at the south police station. They were clearly overwhelmed with grief, but very proud.
"It doesn't surprise me that she did what she did," said Ron Haney, the slain officer's uncle. "Again, very proud of her."
Funeral arrangements are now set for Officer Smith.
There will be a candlelight vigil Monday at 6 p.m. at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Arlington. That will be followed by a private wake.
Then on Tuesday, Officer Smith's funeral will begin at 11 a.m. at the same church.