Thousands of people filled Second Baptist Church Friday to pay respects to Deputy Darren Goforth, who was shot and killed on Aug. 28 while fueling his patrol car at a gas station in northwest Harris County. Many traveled across the country to honor and give a final salute to the fallen deputy. The bagpipes played, the officers saluted and tears flowed during the emotional send-off.
After the funeral, it was a sea of blue as attendees lined the street for the procession. It will head north on Voss from the church, east on the Katy Freeway service road and then north on Antoine to Woodlawn Cemetery, where a private burial will be held.
Goforth was a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff's Office. He was married to Kathleen Goforth and was the father of two children, ages 5 and 12.
The Honor Guard opened Friday's services with a salute to Goforth, and his friend and colleague, HCSO Lt. Don Savell, delivered the greeting, scripture and prayer. The lieutenant thanked Goforth's family for their sacrifice.
"Thank you for sharing your husband, thank you for sharing your daddy with us. We'll never forget him. We find peace in knowing that in this tragic event that took place last week, he left this Earth to touch the very face of God and for that, we are thankful," Savell said.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said Goforth was one of the good guys who made a difference and touched lives.
"The loss of an officer ripples throughout the community we serve. For without them, we are without a guardian of the peace we so frequently take for granted," Hickman said. "I will not allow the death of Deputy Goforth to be just another in a string of deaths of law enforcement men and women. I will not stand silently and say 'What a shame.' What I will do is continue to stand along each and every one of our men and women who continue to serve our communities, bringing justice and mercy to our citizens. I will not abandon them or allow them to be weakened because they have one of us taken from among them."
Lieutenant Roland De Los Santos, who was Goforth's best friend, remarked on the swift work of law enforcement officers and the strength of the community. He also talked about the beautiful makeshift memorial at the Chevron station where Goforth was killed, and the workers who continue to support the Goforth family.
"They were Darren's friends. That was Darren's place to go for a cup of coffee and finish his reports and they love Darren and they've been wonderful," De Los Santos said. "Especially the community, I have never seen an outpouring like this."
De Los Santos said he and Goforth met 36 years ago when they were fourth graders in Mrs. Williams' class. He talked about how he and Goforth were always cracking up and getting in trouble. That memory delivered a light-hearted laugh.
"Who was Darren Goforth? Darren loved humor, he loved to laugh. Darren was genuine, he was down-to-Earth, he was a regular Joe. He was unassuming and modest. He was definitely a hard worker. He was independent at an early age and self-sufficient," De Los Santos said. "He was just a very likable and good guy, and I will say this -- he will be missed. I am going to miss him greatly."
Darren loved cars and he loved his family. De Los Santos talked about the things Goforth accomplished during his lifetime and the things he never had the chance to do, like take a well-deserved dream vacation. Another thing was wearing a matching shirt with his son.
"They had purchased Captain America shirts for Darren's son, Ryan, and Darren to wear together and they never got to wear their shirts. But today, Ryan has on his Captain America shirt and underneath his uniform, so does Darren," De Los Santos tearfully said.
HCSO Sgt. Shannon Bowdoin was one of the officers who had to deliver the news to Goforth's wife about his death. He said she asked what was to become of her children, saying her son needed a man in his life and her daughter misses her hero.
"What you're going to do, my dear sister, is that you're going to lean on us.You're going to lean on your family and you're going to lean on the Lord, God almighty," Bowdoin said at the funeral. He went on to say that the law enforcement community will continue to do the work of protecting and serving.
"We will stand as sentinels in our communities. We will not bow to evil. We will stand for what is right. We will stand for what is good and we will stand at your side, Kathleen," Bowdoin said.
Kathleen Goforth described her husband as tough, but gentle. His attack was "unprovoked," and the deputy was targeted simply because "he was wearing a uniform," authorities said.
The senseless tragedy has brought the community together.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested that citizens turn their headlights on at 11 a.m. Friday for one minute, and requested law enforcement officials to turn on their police lights during that time as well. He said it's a show of support for those in blue uniforms.
Also as a show of support, thousands across Houston united in a #BlueHouston campaign.Blue ribbons were wrapped around trees lining neighborhood streets and signs were visible across the city. In addition, blue light bulbs were lit on front porches of homes in an effort to turn the city blue.
The funeral, open to the public, was attended by thousands of people, many of whom did not personally know Deputy Goforth.
"We come out here to show we do care about him and everybody else. We do care about them," Maria Ardizu, a southwest Houston resident, said.
Ardizu attended the memorial service with her son. They brought with them a full-size American flag.
President Barack Obama released a statement about Goforth's killing Monday that read:
"This afternoon, on my way to Alaska, I called Kathleen Goforth, the widow of Harris County Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth - a veteran law enforcement officer who was contemptibly shot and killed over the weekend. On behalf of the American people, I offered Mrs. Goforth my condolences, and told her that Michelle and I would keep her and her family in our prayers. I also promised that I would continue to highlight the uncommon bravery that police officers show in our communities every single day. They put their lives on the line for our safety. Targeting police officers is completely unacceptable - an affront to civilized society. As I said in my State of the Union Address, we've got to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of the wife who won't rest until the police officer she married walks through the door at the end of his shift. That comfort has been taken from Mrs. Goforth. So we must offer her our comfort - and continue to stand up for the safety of police officers wherever they serve."