ARLINGTON – From as far away as Chicago, hundreds of loved ones and fellow officers gathered inside the Mount Olive Baptist Church in Arlington to say goodbye Tuesday to fallen Officer Jillian Smith.
Smith, a 24-year-old rookie, was killed last week while responding to a domestic violence call. The officer was struck by a bullet while shielding an 11-year-old girl from a bullet, police said. Kimberly Carter, who made the call for help, was also killed.
Words of comfort were offered to Smith’s parents and sister from Rudy Odom, who spoke to the large crowd of mourners at the church.
“This dear one who is gone is not lost,” she said. “But, has gone to rest a little sooner than we have been privileged to do. Sister Smith will be greatly missed.”
The Rev. James P. Thompson, pastor of Mount Olive, said Smith should be remembered not only for her police service, but also for her deep Christian faith. Smith was baptized in the church, where she was a longtime member. She once sang in its youth choir, and attended services there on the Sunday before she was killed.
"She was a saint before she was a police officer," Thompson said.
While her loved ones deeply mourn her death, the pastor said, they should remember that she had a higher calling: "She belonged to God."
Forty-five minutes before the funeral began, the large church was nearly filled to capacity. Most of those in attendance were uniformed officers. Many of them arrived in a somber procession of police cruisers and motorcycles, inching their way through Arlington with lights blinking silently.
Among the civilian dignitaries in attendance were Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.
"More than anything, we wanted to show our respect for an officer and the people of Arlington," Leppert said. "I've been to too many of these lately. We lost a good one this time."
Family members said Smith always dreamed of being an officer.
A nationwide family of law enforcement showed their support in large numbers. Officers from Phoenix to Chicago to Tulsa were among those who attended the funeral. Border patrol, US Customs officers, sheriff’s deputies, Homeland Security and Texas Rangers also came to show their support of Smith’s service.
Smith was killed last Tuesday by Barnes Samuel Nettles, a 38-year-old ex-convict, after she responded to a domestic-disturbance call from an Arlington apartment complex. Nettles also killed his girlfriend, 29-year-old Kimberly Deshay Carter, before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide.
The officer was credited by investigators with having saved the life of Carter's 11-year-old daughter.
At Smith's funeral, a long line of officers, friends, relatives and others paraded slowly past her flag-draped coffin to pay their last respects. One man stopped for several seconds, bowed his head and appeared to say a few words of prayer. A woman overcome with emotion had to be led slowly back to her seat.
The funeral followed a Monday night candlelight vigil outside Mount Olive. At that vigil, Smith was remembered as a homegrown hero.
"She was the perfect All-American girl turned police officer," said Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman. "She was living her dream."
After the funeral, a large procession followed the hearse to the Moore Memorial Gardens in Arlington, where Smith was laid to rest.
Smith was born and raised in Arlington. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a degree in criminology in 2009.
She joined the Arlington Police Department in February 2010, graduated from the academy in August, and finished her field training just 15 days before she was killed.