Funeral arrangements set for APD officers killed in crash - KMSP-TV

Funeral arrangements set for APD officers killed in crash

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ATLANTA -

Funeral arrangements have been made for two Atlanta Police Department officers killed in a helicopter crash late Saturday.

Flags at Atlanta Police headquarters and other city buildings flew at half-staff Monday in memory of Officers Richard J. Halford and Shawn Smiley.

The two officers were flying in a police helicopter in search of a missing 9-year-old boy when they crashed near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Hamilton E. Holmes Drive. Both officers were killed.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday for Officer Richard Halford. The service will be held at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church, located at 534 Fairburn Rd NW in Atlanta.

On Saturday, a funeral will be held for Officer Shawn Smiley at First Baptist Church of Atlanta, located at 4400 North Peachtree Road in Atlanta. The service begins at 11 a.m.

FRIENDS REMEMBER OFFICERS

Gwinnett County firefighter Bennie Morton said he had developed a bond with Smiley, his next-door neighbor in Lithonia, Ga.

"He was like a brother. He's good people. Hard-working, family loving man," said Morton.

Morton said Smiley was a former American Airlines pilot who truly loved his wife and children.

"He was a pilot who loved flying, loved looking out for people and I think he's just doing a job at a higher level," said Morton.

Smiley, 40, was married with three small children.  Officer Halford, 48, recently divorced, has an adult daughter.  

Halford's friends told FOX 5 that he was originally from Columbus, Ga.

Jeff Wright and John Hughley were high school classmates and close friends of Halford's.  They said the 48-year-old was an achiever, a people's person, a Falcons fan and a frequent traveler.

Hughley, a DeKalb sheriff deputy, said that he talked to Halford on Friday about going to their college homecoming next year.

"I said, ‘Big Rich, I'm going to take off and you take off,' and he said, ‘Yeah, we're going to do that.' I said, ‘Rich, I love you.'  He said, ‘Big Hugh, I love you too.' And then we hung up the phone. I did not know that would be the last time that I talked to him," said Hughley.

CITY HOLDS MOMENT OF SILENCE

A black band covered the city of Atlanta seal on Monday as government leaders formally mourned the deaths of the two officers.

Atlanta city leaders held a moment of silence in City Council chambers on Monday to recognize the contributions of the two fallen officers.

"We come together and we pray and we contribute," said Atlanta City Councilmember C.T. Martin. "Richard [Halford] died doing what he always said he would do. He would try to set it down in the middle of the street. And there is nobody else better."

Both families of the officers met with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who told them that the city will support them financially and every other way.

"To let the family know, in no uncertain terms, that everything that the city can do to be supportive during this awful time, we are going to do consistent with what we have done and we bow our heads," Reed said before the moment of silence was held.

Witnesses told federal investigators that they saw a flash of light, which they believe was the helicopter hitting a power pole and supporting cables.

The NTSB is investigating the crash.

Trust funds have been set up for the officers. Donations are being collected at Wells Fargo Bank.

Police helicopter refurbished before crash

Reed said the chopper that crashed was a 1967 model.

The helicopter crashed late Saturday while it was looking for a boy who had run away. The boy was found later unharmed.

Mayor Kasim Reed said at a news conference Monday the helicopter had been upgraded in 2004 and 2005. The FAA gave it an airworthiness certificate in April of 2005.

Reed says the 45-year-old helicopter was considered safe by the department's maintenance crew and its pilot, who was a 16-year veteran of the air unit.

It was 1 of 4 helicopters in the department's fleet. It had been given to the department in 1994 by the military.

City documents state that in 2001, there had been a request to purchase new choppers, including one that was slated to be a replacement for the 1967 model involved in the accident. The documents note that the request was made in part because the helicopter was seen as having outlived its usefulness of 25 years.

"What I know is everything that we know about our helicopters today, this is 24 hours after the incident we are giving you, we spent a substantial amount of money refurbishing that helicopter," Reed same.

A deputy chief noted that Halford, the pilot, had full confidence in the 1967 refurbished model; it had a Rolls Royce engine.

"We listen to the people in our department. So there are people in our department who are responsible for helicopter maintenance and they felt that by spending additional dollars we could keep these aircraft flying," said Reed.

 Police commanders say Halford was not the only one who wanted to keep flying the older chopper. Right now, no one from the Atlanta Police Department is flying, according to Deputy Chief Renee Propes.

"Right now, we're not flying. There's a lot of reasons for that. Of course, they are pretty emotional right now, the remaining pilots and the tactical flight officers assigned to the unit, so we want to give them some time to recompose themselves," said Propes.

While Reed says he has got to listen to the professionals in the department, there are some critics who are saying a 2005 airworthiness check by the FAA is just not good enough, according to FOX 5's Morse Diggs.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report

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