A Houston police officer killed in the line of duty is being laid to rest. Hundreds have packed a northwest Harris County church to say a final goodbye to Officer Kevin Will. He was killed early Sunday morning, hit by a car driven by an illegal immigrant who was allegedly drunk.
As you can imagine, it was a very sad and somber mood inside as family members and hundreds of law enforcement agencies from across the state said their final goodbyes. There was silence earlier this morning as the body of Officer Will was wheeled inside Champion Forest Baptist Church hours before the service. One and after another, hundreds of HPD officers and others filed in, preparing to pay their respect.
Then, a round of applause for Officer Will who saved the life of another before losing his own when he pushed a witness out of the way before the crash. The officer was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver and during the funeral service, two officers picked by Officer Will's family stood and spoke about their friend.
Many of the officers told us they did not know Officer Will personally, but they say they still feel this loss.
"It's a very somber mood when you have an officer killed in the line of duty this way, that was out there trying to help the public; and actually he's a hero because he was able to warn somebody to get out of the way and he took the hit that cost his life. You become one, you become family no matter what uniform you wear. We're all police officers and we all care about each other," said Officer Roger Salazar of the METRO Police Department.
After the service came to a close, hundreds of HPD officers lined up shoulder to shoulder for a wall of honor to salute the casket as it came out of the church. That was followed by an HPD fly-over, a 21-gun salute and a riderless horse to symbolize this fallen hero. A private burial service was scheduled after the funeral.
At the Houston police officer's memorial, flowers have been laid and eventually Officer Will's name plaque will be installed on the monument.
Kevin Will's life lasted only 37 years, but in that time he earned love and respect which was seen here today.
HPD Police Chaplain Monty Montgomery had to tell his parents.
"Miss Will, there was one thing you said when we were sitting on the couch that really I thought brought strength to many people in this place today -- when you looked at your husband and you said, 'Harold, he beat us to heaven,'" Montgomery said at the funeral.
Officer Will's biggest job though was just months away -- his wife is pregnant with his first child, a boy. Today with her two children, the widow accepted a flag and a police badge that is now retired.
"He was taken from us way too soon, but I am honored to say I know Kevin Will, the hero," said HPD Sgt. J.K. Richards.
Tiger Kaufman, son of a policeman and childhood friend of Will's, said, "I was fortunate my Dad chose his retirement. So Kevin and all the officers that protect our us and serve our city are constantly in my prayers."
Officer Will's wife plans to name their child for his late father. Suspect charged; immigration debate renewed
On Wednesday evening, dozens of people came out to the visitation services at Klein Funeral Home. It was the same day Rodriguez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who has been deported twice before, made his first appearance in court. Court records show the accused gang member's blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit and he had cocaine in his pocket when police say he hit Officer Will.
Rodriguez faces felony charges and a possible life sentence. He remains in jail.
This case has renewed the debate over whether local police officers should be allowed to check a person's immigration status. Supporters say it would allow officers to stop illegal immigrants from committing crimes. Opponents say immigration is a federal government issue.
A bill that would give Texas police officers the authority to ask people about their immigration status was refiled in Austin on Wednesday, but it is not expected to be taken up during the special session.
Stay with Eyewitness News for continuing coverage of the sanctuary cities debate. Help for fallen officer's family
The 100 Club announced that donations are being accepted to its "Survivor's Fund," which provides benefits to the dependents of peace officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty.
Officer Will died in the line of duty on Sunday morning, May 29, 2011, while working a hit-and-run motorcycle accident on 610 North Loop near Yale. A $10,000 check will be given to Officer Will's family to assist with any needs they may have. Additional financial support for the family will be provided, after a review is made by the Club, to include current financial and children's educational needs.
If you wish to help, contributions may be made at www.the100club.org, or mailed to 100 Club Survivor's Fund, 5555 San Felipe Street, Ste 520, Houston TX 77056-2733. One-hundred percent of "Survivor's Fund" donations go to the dependents of law enforcement officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.