RIVERVIEW — Amid a sea of black, a little girl in a flowered dress sat quietly.
She watched as people streamed into the funeral home, dabbing their eyes and telling stories about her dad, David Kenneth James.
It was just a week ago that 8-year-old Danielle James played her last basketball game with her father before he was shot in a confrontation with a neighbor. Trevor Dooley, 69, has been charged with manslaughter.
Few people talked about that day during James' military-style funeral Saturday at the Serenity Meadows Memorial Park. Instead, they spoke of a devoted husband, a loving father and a dedicated 20-year Air Force veteran.
"I'm very proud of him," said James' 17-year-old son, Garrett.
Danielle paused inside the chapel to look at a poster-size photo of James before taking her seat.
"They were best friends," James' widow Kanina said of her husband and daughter before the service.
James, whom everybody called D.J., retired from the Air Force Special Operations Command Central two years ago after serving in Iraq.
While overseas, it was clear that James' family "was the center of his universe," said James' boss, First Sgt. Don Workman, in a eulogy read by Command Sgt. Maj. Jay Lovelace.
His fellow airmen could see it in all the souvenirs he brought home. James once held a wooden giraffe in his lap for a whole 10-hour flight, fearful that it wouldn't arrive in one piece for Danielle, Workman wrote.
James' work ethic was unmatched, Workman wrote. He was also gullible and honest. He liked motorcycles, camping and telling jokes.
James' sister, Donna Edmunds, remembered once saving him from a classroom bully.
How fitting that he died "protecting his daughter and other children," Edmunds wrote, as also read by Lovelace.
"I try to hang on to the feeling that my brother is a hero," she wrote.
When it was over, an honor guard folded the American flag that had covered James' casket, filed outside for a 21-gun salute, then handed the flag to Kanina.
Taps played through a loudspeaker, and James' mother, Toni, broke down in sobs.
When the visitors left, James' family lingered in the pews.
Kanina surveyed the flowers. They would take home one bouquet. The rest would be left at the basketball court.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2442.