Charlotte officer remembered as hard-charging cop with soft heart for his family

BySydnee Scofield, Tom George WTVD logo
Friday, May 3, 2024
Fallen Officer Joshua Eyer | Funeral for police officer killed in North Carolina while serving warrant in Charlotte
"I will carry his love with me for the rest of my life," Eyer's wife Ashley said.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was a goodbye fit for a hero - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Officer Joshua Eyer was laid to rest on Friday after being killed in a shootout serving a warrant at a home in east Charlotte on Monday.

The somber ceremony at First Baptist Church in uptown Charlotte drew thousands of people, many of them law enforcement officers from across North Carolina and the country.

Eyer was one of four officers shot and killed Monday while trying to serve a warrant to a convicted felon. Four others were injured.

Friday's services started with a precession at 9:30 a.m. Eyer's body in a flag-draped coffin was brought from police headquarters on a horse-drawn caisson three blocks to the church where the late evangelist Billy Graham held his first crusade.

It was the kind of pomp and circumstance Eyer's wife joked that the humble servant would have rolled his eyes at.

Officers lined the street as dozens marched playing bagpipes and drums. Behind them were hundreds more Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers walking quietly in dress uniforms to the church where an American flag hung from the top of a firetruck's tall ladder.

From the procession to the funeral, love poured out in Charlotte for a fallen officer who will never be forgotten.

"Joshua would have been so uncomfortable by all this attention," his wife, Ashley, said.

But his boss will tell you it's exactly the kind of attention Officer Eyer deserved.

There was a huge turnout at the church, blocks down from a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police station. About 2,000 people packed inside between the main service and the overflow room. There were also about 500 people outside of the church.

The church said there were two truckloads of flowers and a third on standby.

Some of Eyer's peers and loved ones, including his wife, best friend Charlie Sardelli and fellow CMPD officers Nicholas Ferriera and Detective Thomas Mattox spoke at the service. They described Eyer as a hard-charging outwardly stern cop who also peppered friends with "how's things" texts and showered love on his family.

"He was so good to me," Ashley said. "I never have, and I never will question how much he loved me. I will carry his love with me for the rest of my life."

Andrew was said to be a spitting image of his dad. Many on Friday vowed that they would make sure when Andrew was older, he knew his dad died a hero.

"Joshua, thank you for giving me a beautiful life and for a beautiful son. We won't let you down, OK? I love you so much, Sunshine. I'll see you soon," his wife said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Detective Thomas Maddox, who worked in Eyer's division for five years, said he's determined to let Eyer's son know that "his father died a hero with a full heart" and the rest of his family know what he meant to his friends, but also the community he served.

"Full speed, no matter the cost. That couldn't have been more in evidence by his actions Monday," he said.

A National Guard veteran with tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait, Eyer was the kind of officer who would go above and beyond.

Even on that tragic Monday, he was hoping to pick up extra hours and then found himself running into the gunfire.

It's something Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings knows is a risk for any of his officers.

"My challenge to everyone who wears this uniform: Pick up the pieces that Josh left behind and carry them on and bring them through to continue his legacy," Jennings told the crowd of mourners.

But Eyer's real legacy his family will tell you, was playing next to his casket in the front row. His son Andrew will turn 3 this year.

Ashley held back tears talking about the life they built together and their son, the spitting image of his dad.

"If you really want to honor him please help me by maintaining his legacy through Andrew, help me teach him about who his daddy was and what he meant to each of you," Ashley said.

Eyer's funeral was the first of four around Charlotte following the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement in one incident since five officers were killed by a sniper during a protest in Dallas in 2016.

Also killed Monday were Sam Poloche and William Elliott of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections and Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks. Elliott's memorial service is Thursday at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. Times for the other services have not been announced.

Sardelli, Eyer's best friend since his ROTC days in high school, remembered how Eyer spent 10 hours moving belongings into a storage unit when the Sardelli family's house burned down.

And whenever it seemed like too long since they had talked, Eyer texted him out of the blue "How's things" - even when he was deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait during his 12 years with the North Carolina Army National Guard.

"We got to watch him change lives around the globe with nothing more than his personality," Sardelli said.

Jennings honored Eyer as Officer of the Month for April just a few weeks before he was killed.

"Officer Eyer, you represent everything great about this badge I wear over my heart and this patch I wear on my sleeve," Jennings said.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper were also present.

Eyer's patrol car was parked outside one police division. It was filled with flowers and notes, including one from a 7-year-old reading in part "Dear officer, thank you for your service, I know your buddies miss you."

President Joe Biden traveled to Charlotte on Thursday to meet with families of the officers killed and injured in Monday's shootout.

"We pray for their loved ones and those left behind," Biden said during his visit. "I met their children, their husbands, their wives and their mothers and fathers. And we pray for the recovery of the brave wounded as well."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.