Thousands of peace officers and friends gathered at the funeral for rookie Officer Christy Lynne Hamilton – less to mourn her death than to celebrate her as a woman whose refusal to let go of her dream inspired them as well.
Hamilton’s dream of becoming a Los Angeles police officer had cost her her life at the age 45.
Hamilton became the second female Los Angeles police officer to die in the line of duty when she was shot to death February 22, 1994, after four weeks on the force. She had graduated from the Police Academy just four days before she died, in a quake delayed ceremony, with an award as the most inspirational cadet in her class.
“Some of you are experiencing guilt for what happened to Christy,” said Sgt. Ron Moen, a Los Angeles Police Department chaplain. “But this was her lifelong dream, and nothing any of you could have done would have discouraged her from pursuing that dream… Christy would have wanted to die doing what she loved most: being a police officer in the field.”
As family members and colleagues smiled at speakers’ tales of her foibles, her sense of humor and her passion for the job and brushed away tears at reminders of her lost potential and her sudden death.
After the memorial service, Hamilton’s father Kenneth Brondell said his daughter’s first career as a mother of two children, now grown, would have made her a cop with a unique sense of compassion. “She would have worn her badge without arrogance. She didn’t want a badge to have authority; she wanted to go out and help people,” Brondell said.
Moen remembered the time Hamilton spent a few hours with two toddlers left homeless after she arrested their parents. “Inside of her was a heart so big I’m surprised her body was able to keep it all,” the chaplain told the mourners.
Chief Willie L. Williams, Governor Pete Wilson and more than 1,500 police officers from as far away as Oklahoma City attended services at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley and later at Forest Lawn Mortuary. “It’s a tragedy that we’re here,” said Williams, visibly moved by the ceremonies. “Five officers killed in the line of duty in the 20 months I’ve been here. It’s a tragedy and a shame.”
Hamilton died when she was struck by a bullet fired by a 17-year-old Northridge youth who killed his father, then ambushed arriving police officers. Hamilton was hit by one bullet through the armhole of her bullet-resistant vest.
Hamilton had refused to let her age keep her from completing the rigorous Police Academy training. Knowing she would have to show she could scale a six- foot wall to graduate, she built one in her back yard in Thousand Oaks home and made one bruising practice run after another. “Your maturity and desire were unspoken inspirations that we drew from as a class,” Linda Thompson, drill instructor for Hamilton’s academy class, said. “You taught us all to keep our dreams alive.”
Kelley Steven, 24, Hamilton’s daughter, recalled when Hamilton first said she wanted to become a police officer, after the LAPD’s age ceiling was lifted. She asked me if she was crazy,” Steven said. “I thought she didn’t have a chance. But if you tell my mom she’s incapable of anything, she will prove you wrong.”
“Mom, you lived and died a hero,” Steven said. “We all love you. And we will miss you.”
Hamilton is also survived by a son, William Steven, 20, and her husband, Steve Hamilton, a Los Angeles firefighter.
Family, friends and colleagues filed past Hamilton’s gold-hued casket, where she lay in her blue dress uniform, a single rose resting atop clasped hands.
“The Los Angeles Police Department will never know the type of officer it lost this morning,” Chief Williams said Hamilton’s father had told him. “Only her family will know.”