By KEN RITTER, Associated Press
HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — An off-duty police officer who was among 58 people killed in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history was honored with a posthumous promotion to Army first sergeant during an emotional funeral service Friday.
Hundreds of police officers in uniform packed the Henderson, Nevada, church as pallbearers guided the casket of Charleston Hartfield, 34, which was draped in a U.S. flag.
Central Christian Church Pastor Mike Bodine told more than 2,000 people at the funeral that Hartfield, a Vegas police officer and U.S. Army Service member, had provided instructions ahead of time to be read at his memorial, which read in part: “If you’re reading this, then I’ve been called home.”
Along with heartfelt message to his family, it also said people should not express sorrow about his passing but “enjoy themselves” and remember him for who he was.
“The truth only,” it said. “None of that stuff about how great I was.”
Friends, family members and police and military officials then spent more than an hour breaking his rule — including Brig. Gen. Zachary Doser, the head of the Nevada Army National Guard, who praised Hartfield, who served in Iraq, as the epitome of everything good about being an American, and posthumously promoted him to first sergeant.
Traffic paused for a moment on the Las Vegas Strip to mark the passing of the casket. Charleston Hartfield was receiving full departmental honors including a motorcade. He was an off-duty police officer who was among 58 people killed when a gunman opened fire from a high-rise hotel into a crowded outdoor concert in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The motorcade stopped traffic through downtown and along Las Vegas Boulevard, where people crowded pedestrian bridges beneath casino marquees as the blocks-long procession passed the site of the Oct. 1 massacre at an open-air concert venue near the Mandalay Bay resort.
Some saluted and at least one man wept as a phalanx of more than 50 police motorcycles with lights flashing led a pickup truck bearing the flag-draped casket on a sunny and breezy day that had palm trees waving in the wind.
Fallen Las Vegas police officers have been honored with processions on the Strip at least since the February 2006 on-duty slaying of Sgt. Henry Prendes, who responded to a domestic disturbance call at a home and was killed by a man wielding an assault rifle. His funeral was also held at Central Christian Church, which can seat 4,500 people.
Hartfield, 34, was off-duty when the shooting started at the Route 91 Harvest Festival country music concert, but department officials said he died trying to help others escape.
He was an 11-year police veteran, a married father of a son and a daughter, who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and the Nevada Army National Guard. He worked in recent years as an instructor in the police body-camera deployment program and coached youth football in his hometown of Henderson.
Hartfield recently authored a book about life as a police officer, called “Memoirs Of A Public Servant.”
His was the first police officer killed in Las Vegas since Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were shot to death while eating at a pizza shop in June 2014 by a man and a woman who later died during a shootout with officers at a Walmart.
There will be a private burial for Hartfield at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, police said.
Associated Press writer Sally Ho contributed to this report.