Biden eulogizes slain officer as Capitol Police mourn again

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President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony to honor slain U.S. Capitol Police officer William "Billy" Evans as he lies in honor at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Tuesday that “never has there been more strain” on the U.S. Capitol Police as he honored Officer William “Billy” Evans, the second officer on the force to die in the line of duty this year.

Evans, who laid in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, was killed earlier this month when a driver struck him and another officer at a barricade outside the Senate. His death compounded the anguish of a police force already mourning the loss of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after his encounter with rioters during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Another officer, Howard Liebengood, died by suicide in the days after the Capitol attack.

The deaths have taken a toll on the force, which has been overworked and understaffed as leaders try to figure out how to move forward from the mistakes of Jan. 6. The Capitol Police were massively unprepared as supporters of former President Donald Trump violently pushed past them and broke into the building that day. In the weeks and months since, top leaders have resigned, and many have considered leaving the department. Officials have brought in trauma therapists, and lawmakers are considering what more they can do.

Sicknick and Evans are two of only six Capitol Police officers who have been killed in the line of duty in the force’s nearly 200-year history, according to the department. Evans had been on the force for 18 years.

Biden, speaking at the service in the Rotunda attended by congressional leaders and Evans’ fellow officers, said he had never seen as much “strain and responsibility” put on the department in the nearly 50 years since he first came to Capitol Hill as a senator. And yet, he said, “you watch them do their duty with pure courage and not complain.”

Evans, 41, was remembered for his dedication to country, love for his job and his mischievous sense of humor. His children, 7-year-old Abigail and 9-year-old Logan, sat with their mother and grandmother at the service and clutched small replicas of the Capitol. At one point, Abigail dropped hers, and Biden stood to retrieve it. Near the end of the ceremony, the girl tried to wipe away her mother’s tears as a U.S. Army chorus sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Logan wore a police cap and hugged a stuffed animal as Biden and congressional leaders eulogized his father and said prayers for his family. He continued to clutch it as the family paid respects in front of the casket and walked out of the ceremony.

Biden, who also met with the family privately, said Evans was “defined by his dignity, his decency, his loyalty and his courage,” and he spoke of his own experience losing two children.