KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri police officer slain during a traffic stop was eulogized Saturday as an optimistic man who always prized law enforcement, with the state’s governor pressing mourners to appreciate the perils of police in a culture “too quick to condemn” them.
“My brother’s dream job was being a police officer,” said Chris Michael, standing behind brother Gary Lee Michael Jr.’s flag-draped casket.
Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and hundreds of others packed a convention center in western Missouri’s Clinton, the 9,000-resident town where the officer was gunned down on Aug. 6.
Investigators say 37-year-old Gary Michael had stopped a car for a traffic violation when the driver fatally shot him and sped away. The suspect, Ian McCarthy of Clinton, was captured after a two-day manhunt.
McCarthy, who authorities say was wounded in the gunfire exchange with Michael, is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. A plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf Friday, and he remains jailed.
A second man, 35-year-old William Noble of Clinton, was charged Thursday with felony evidence tampering after prosecutors alleged he supplied the weapon — an unspecified rifle — used to kill Michael.
During Saturday’s funeral, Chris Michael said his brother had a “passionate, optimistic view of life” and “a servant heart.”
When Gary Michael was 16, his brother recalled, he went to the Clinton police station and had “his first interview,” telling officers, “‘You guys have car chases sometimes, and during those maybe you need somebody to help you out.”
“‘I got a fast car, you known, and maybe I could help. Maybe I could be a pursuit specialist,'” Chris Michael quoted his brother as saying then. “Unfortunately that job title still does not exist. But Gary did get the nickname of ‘Rabbit’ because of his foot-pursuit skills. He loved his brothers in blue.”
Gary Michael — an Army veteran and one-time car salesman — was the first police officer killed in the line of duty in Clinton, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of Kansas City.
McCarthy served time in prison in New Hampshire for first-degree assault and a parole violation. He also was wanted at the time of his arrest on a 2015 warrant out of Johnson County, Missouri, for unlawful possession of a firearm. As a convicted felon, McCarthy cannot legally own a firearm.
Moments after Clinton pastor Randy Shipman told mourners Michael was taken by “a deprived act that is unexplainable,” Greitens said the tragedy underscored that “now more than ever our police officers need our devotion.”
“This culture has become too quick to condemn the peacekeepers and to defame the defenders,” Greitens said. “But we here, we know that our peace and defense are dearly paid for in sweat and sacrifice and also lives.”