Officer Paul Verna, 35, a Medal of Valor winner gunned down during a routine traffic stop, was laid to rest in a service attended by more than 3,500 fellow officers.
An additional 2,000 civilians attended the June 8 burial of the murdered motorcycle officer at Oakwood Memorial Park, just a few miles from the neighborhood where Verna was raised and the corner where he was killed.
About 300 police motorcycles and 1,500 black-and-white patrol cards comprised a motorcade viewed by hundreds of citizens who lined the route.
“Paul was a street policeman,” Police Chaplain Jerry Powell said in his eulogy. “He loved the streets, he loved the work, and that is where he wanted to be.
“Paul was rich in love and humanity . . . a caring family person.”
Powell also recalled the incident in December 1981 when Verna crawled into a burning home in an attempt to save two mentally retarded children, an act of heroism that won him the department’s Medal of Valor.
“Paul, at that time, didn’t see himself as a hero,” Powell said. “He saw his job, and he just did it. He felt uncomfortable receiving the medal of Valor . . .he didn’t like the publicity.”
Officers from 51 different agencies from California, Arizona, Nevada and even Mexico accompanied Verna’s casket on the slow trek to the cemetery where they were joined by Mayor Tom Bradley, Sheriff Sherman Block and several members of the City Council. Police Chief Daryl Gates, in Europe on business, was represented by Assistant Chief Barry Wade.
Verna’s wife, Sandra, 33, sat with the couple’s two sons, Bryce, 9, and Ryan, 4, and the officer’s parents and sister, occasionally giving her children comforting hugs.
The two boys were both dressed in their Little League baseball uniforms, honoring their father’s love of sports. The older boy cradled the slain officer’s helmet while the younger held the flag that had draped his coffin.
Following the eulogy, a police bagpiper played “Amazing Grace.” Three shots were fired into the air and a bugler closed the ceremony with “Taps.”
Verna, whose record of service also included the city Fire Department and the Air Force, was the 150th officer killed in the line of duty in the nation’s third largest city.
His accused killer, Kenneth Gay, pleaded innocent to charges, including murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice, that could bring a death penalty. Gay’s wife and three other suspects also pleaded innocent to charges in the case, some involving a string of robberies.