BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy killed last Sunday ran to help another officer when he could have stayed safe in the convenience store where he was working off-duty, a minister said at his funeral Saturday.
“It’s a remarkable story, the story of Brad Garafola,” said the Rev. Jeff Ginn, lead pastor at Istrouma Baptist Church. “He had a place of security … a place where he could hide. He left that place of safety.”
Garafola and two Baton Rouge police officers were killed outside the B-Quik convenience store by 29-year-old gunman Gavin Long, who was killed by police. Three other officers were wounded. Sheriff Sid Gautreaux told mourners Saturday that one remains in critical condition and another faces a third operation on his shattered arm.
All 1,500 seats were filled in Istrouma Baptist Church, where a public funeral was held for Garafola. The walls were lined with additional mourners, many of them police who had come from across the country.
A funeral Mass was celebrated earlier at a Catholic church for Garafola’s family and friends, according to the family’s obituary.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said strength and courage seem to have defined Garafola’s life and death.
Gautreaux said he was “courageous, compassionate, fearless, fair, brave and benevolent.”
His brother-in-law, Jaye Cooper, said people called Garafola “the neighborhood husband” because he cut grass, caught snakes and did other chores for people around the community.
“He never asked anything for what he did,” Cooper said. He said Garafola died “doing what Brad had always done — trying to help someone else.”
During two hours of visitation before the funeral, a line of mourners snaked through church hallways, out the back door and into the parking lot. It included scores of officers from around Louisiana and from coast to coast.
Two police officers and two sheriff’s deputies came from the Seattle, Washington area. Bellevue police Officer Paul Dill said their chief feels it’s important to honor brother and sister officers. He said the department sends an honor guard contingent to every out-of-state death in the line of duty.
Early arrivals for Garafola’s service included a deputy who worked with him in the department’s foreclosure division. He was dressed in Scottish regalia for a pipe band which played “Amazing Grace” outside the church after four helicopters flew over in salute.
Work in that division requires someone who can defuse the fraught business of eviction and repossession, and Garafola was good at keeping things calm, said Deputy Greg McLean.
He described Garafola as a generous family man. When another deputy in the department was losing hair to chemotherapy, McLean said, “Brad said, ‘OK, we’re going to shave our heads together.’ And he did.”
On Friday, hundreds turned out for a funeral service for Baton Rouge police Officer Matthew Gerald, 41.
Funeral services for the third officer slain, 32-year-old Montrell Jackson, are scheduled Monday, with a multi-agency memorial service for the officers Thursday.
The shootings came at a time of racial tension in the city and country after a black man was shot and killed during a confrontation with two white police officers outside a convenience store. The next day a black man in Minnesota was shot and killed by police, and his girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath on Facebook. The day after that, a black gunman in Dallas opened fire during a protest against the Minnesota and Baton Rouge shootings, and killed five police officers.
Gautreaux told reporters earlier that surveillance video showed Garafola firing at the gunman as bullets hit the concrete around him.
“My deputy went down fighting. He returned fire to the very end,” the sheriff said.
Garafola leaves behind a wife and four children: sons ages 21 and 12, and daughters ages 15 and 7.