By Scott Sonner and Michelle Rindels
More than 1,000 people stood up in the middle of a funeral to cheer, applaud and whistle for a slain Carson City sheriff’s deputy remembered as both a gentle, funny man and heroic warrior who sacrificed his life to save others.
Deputy Carl Howell, 35, was killed in a gun battle during a domestic violence call in Carson City. The suspect also was killed, and the shooting remains under investigation by Reno police.
“On Aug. 15, at 2:16 a.m. in a quiet neighborhood, the epidemic of domestic violence fell upon us, and it was met by a warrior,” Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong said at last week’s funeral at the Reno Events Center.
“He saved lives by giving his own,” he told the crowd, which included law-enforcement officers from as far away as New York City, Miami, Los Angeles and Seattle. “He didn’t succumb to his fatal injuries until everyone was safe.”
Hushed crowds of people waving American flags lined the streets of Carson City and Reno as hundreds of law enforcement vehicles from agencies around Nevada and neighboring states escorted Howell’s flag-draped coffin from the capital city.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Chief Justice Jim Hardesty and the mayors of Carson City, Reno and Sparks were among those who attended.
“Words are simply insufficient to express the collective grief of Carson City,” Mayor Bob Crowell said.
“Your father is a hero,” he told the four children Howell left behind with his widow, Rachel. “He protected us and he will live in our hearts forever.”
Howell, a 9-year veteran of the force who also served in the U.S. Marines and was a volunteer firefighter, was the department’s first officer killed in the line of duty in more than 50 years.
His father said family research shows they are “descended from Vikings.”
“I believe on that night, all those warriors stuck their heads out,” said Kevin Howell, a Vietnam veteran. “As sad as I am, as devastated as I am and broken-hearted, I take comfort that the pride that swells is pushing the grief away. What more can you ask of a person than what Carl did?”
Deputy Dan Jones shared both poignant and humorous stories about attending the police academy with Howell, being sworn in together and going on their first official call.
“Kids were doing doughnuts in the snow at the old Walmart. We told them to stop,” Jones said. “We waited for the area to clear out — and then we did some doughnuts.”
Jones said he “lost it” when he heard about the shooting.
“I later found out you saved several deputies,” Jones said, tears streaming as he spoke directly to his old friend. “When I see you again, I know what you are going to say: ‘I was just doing my job, brother.’”
The 30-second standing ovation came after Deputy Bob Guimont also spoke directly to Howell.
“This is an emotional wreck for us, 5466,” he said, referring to his badge number before urging the crowd into action. “They told me this is a celebration of life. I want you to get on your feet and I want to hear a massive round of applause and some cheers.”
Jonathan Pope, 30, the suspect killed in the shooting, had a criminal record that included convictions for driving under the influence in 2003, 2006 and 2007.
“You hate to think that these kinds of things happen around here in this community, but things do happen,” said Rit Balmer, a water operations supervisor who joined fellow Carson City public works employees to pay their respects along the highway. “It’s unfortunate. It affects everybody.”