published Monday, March 28th, 2011

Thousands attend funeral for slain Ga. officer

ATHENS, Ga. — Thousands of people mourned a slain Georgia police officer whose killing led to a days-long manhunt for a suspect who surrendered live television.

  • photo
    A Dekalb County sheriff's deputy holds a program during a memorial service for Athens-Clarke County senior police officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian, Sunday, March 27, 2011 in Athens, Ga. Hundreds turned out for the funeral of a slain Georgia police officer whose killing prompted a days-long manhunt for a suspect who surrendered live television. WSB-TV reports that an honor guard lined the streets of Athens on Sunday as the body of Officer Christian was escorted to the city's Classic Center. Police say 33-year-old Jamie Hood fatally shot Christian on Tuesday, when he also shot and seriously wounded Officer Tony Howard. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Almost 2,500 people — including law enforcement officers from Georgia and elsewhere — packed the Classic Center theater for the funeral of Athens-Clarke County Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.

Hundreds more lined the streets as a horse-drawn hearse took his body to Evergreen Memorial Park for burial. One of Christian's hobbies was shoeing horses for friends and family.

Jamie Hood, 33, fatally shot Christian on Tuesday and also shot and seriously wounded Officer Tony Howard, police say. Hood was taken into custody late Friday after requesting that a news crew document his surrender.

Hood had been holed up with nine hostages at an Athens apartment. Five exited the apartment along with him. Hours earlier he had released four others.

Randy Crowe, pastor of Hull Baptist Church, where Christian was a member, cautioned relatives, friends and co-workers against letting anger consume them.

"Does (Hood) know the devastation he caused?" Crowe asked. "Does he know what he has taken away from this family, from his friends here today and from his comrades?"

As Hood was being taken into custody late Friday, he told WXIA-TV in a brief videotaped interview, "I regret killing that officer."

When asked what he meant, a handcuffed Hood said, "That officer. That innocent officer. I regret that ..." Asked for more details, Hood said, "You know, they killed my brother. They were going to kill me."

Hood was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1997 for armed robbery and released in 2009. In 2001, while Hood was serving time, his 22-year-old brother Timothy Hood was shot and killed by an Athens police officer. Investigators said at the time that Timothy Hood pulled a gun on an officer and was shot when the weapon jammed.

"Buddy has already forgiven the man who shot him," Crowe said. "Buddy has already talked to the Lord about him."

Christian, who was 34, leaves behind Melissa, his wife of 15 years, and two children — 2-year-old Wyatt and 5-year-old Callie.

Christian became a police officer in 2002, fulfilling his lifelong dream, Crowe said.

"He knew the danger," Crowe said. "He knew the risk. But a police officer is what Buddy wanted to be. He wanted to help people.

Christian started out as a beat officer and then moved to traffic enforcement, said police Chief Jack Lumpkin.

"He demonstrated exceptional skills and abilities at helping people solve problems and an excellent work ethic," Lumpkin said.

Athens-Clarke County has established a memorial fund at Athens First Bank & Trust and Lumpkin assured Christian's wife and children they would not be forgotten.

"The Athens-Clarke County Police Department will be there for you over the long haul," he said.

Hood is also suspected in the December slaying of county employee Kenneth Omari Wray, Tom Smith, the assistant police chief in Athens-Clarke County, told the Banner-Herald. Tuesday's shootings happened as officers were seeking Hood in connection with a kidnapping. Smith says the person kidnapped 31-year-old Judon Brooks, was connected to Wray but wouldn't elaborate.

Police said Hood lured Brooks to his parents' home Tuesday telling him he wanted to "show him something." Brooks arrived at the home to find Hood and four masked gunmen inside, police said.

The men bound Brooks' feet and hands and Hood asked him for addresses of people Brooks knew and threatened to kill him, police told the newspaper. The men may have wanted information linked to Wray's slaying, which police think was drug-related, police said.

The men forced Brooks into the trunk of a car and drove off, police said. Brooks freed his hands, popped the trunk and escaped when the car stopped at a red light, police said.

Police issued an alert for Hood and Howard spotted Hood's brother driving an SUV and pulled him over. Jamie Hood got out and shot Howard, police said.

Christian, who was in the area on an unrelated call, stopped to assist a third officer who had Matthew Hood in custody. Hood ran up to Christian's car and shot him through the window and then shot Howard a second time, police said. Howard remains hospitalized but is expected to recover.

Hood then fled on foot, carjacked a car and disappeared, police said, sparking a massive manhunt that came to its end late Friday evening after a seven-hour standoff.

Hood was arrested and charged with murder and 13 other felonies. Police say more charges are likely.

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