Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

When police officers die, the funeral must attend to many

ST. PETERSBURG — There will be horses and police dogs and caravans of squad cars. A dove release, a fly over and a 21-gun salute.

Two grieving families. And strangers, thousands of strangers.

The funeral today for two slain St. Petersburg police officers will be a carefully coordinated union of private sorrow and public ceremony.

That is how police funerals tend to work. Families and colleagues get to pay tribute and a reeling community does, too.

It's why the memorial service for officers Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Thomas J. Baitinger will be held at the First Baptist Church on Gandy Boulevard, a location chosen not for its personal significance, but for its size.

It's why the Tampa Police Department sent two funeral commanders across the bay to help with logistics.

It's why about 300 people gathered at the church Thursday morning to rehearse each detail of the service.

"St. Petersburg hasn't had to do this recently," Tampa police Lt. Ruben Delgado said. But "they have truly stepped up and taken care of their two guys."

The community outpouring during a personal nightmare still moves one police widow to tears 13 years later.

Detectives Ricky Childers and Randy Bell received their final police honors at the Tampa Convention Center. It wasn't a typical place of worship, but the atmosphere was appropriately somber, Vickie Childers-Metzler said. She didn't even notice the media cameras.

Her lasting memory is of the spectators who stood along the procession route to pay respects.

"That was one of the most uplifting things for me," she said. "It's a very proud moment because they realize what you sacrificed."

Law enforcement takes pains to ensure family wishes are not lost in the public nature of the event. Pastors from the officers' home churches typically participate.

When two officers are honored with a single service, extra care is taken to fulfill the expectations of both families, Delgado said.

Last year, he helped coordinate the joint funeral for Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab at Idlewild Baptist Church. The widows agreed on the location and other major decisions, Delgado said. Then police made individual accommodations, such as giving one family time to pray the rosary.

"Both families realize the magnitude of a loss like this to the agency," he said. "They realized that their two husbands died together, and they were going to be properly honored by us."

St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said the widows of Yaslowitz and Baitinger were consulted on the funeral setting, music and speakers.

"I think they were involved with virtually everything," Puetz said. "It's for them. The other part of this is for the extended law enforcement family. But at the end of the day, it's their decision."

Times staff writer Jamal Thalji and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337.

When police officers die, the funeral must attend to many 01/27/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 2:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella's American Folk Art Cafe. Times files
  2. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  3. A buzz-worthy look at the Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup

    The Heater

    Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel is congratulated by Jose Altuve after scoring during the fifth inning of Game 7 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) TXMG170
  4. Florida, FSU try to ignore death threats, angry fans

    College

    GAINESVILLE — Frustration over uncharacteristically down seasons at Florida and Florida State has started to spill over from message boards and start crossing real-world lines.

    Fans watch the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. At the half, Florida was up 10 to 3.
  5. Tallest building in Pinellas County in search of a new name

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The name "Priatek" is gone from Pinellas County's tallest building, perhaps to be replaced by that of a much better-known company new to the Tampa Bay area.

    The Priatek name is off of downtown St. Petersburg's tallest building.
 [LARA CERRI  |   Times.  2015]