UPDATED: Thousands turn out to honor slain Tucson
Governor Napolitano and Attorney General Goddard among the
dignitaries at his funeral
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Thousands of Tucsonans turned out Tuesday to honor Tucson police officer
Erik Hite, who was buried this afternoon at a Tucson cemetery to the mournful
sounds of bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace," and to a 21-gun salute.
Click here for a slideshow
The burial began later than scheduled due largely to a miles-long motorcade
led by more than 200 motorcycle officers from across the state. It took nearly
an hour for the entire motorcade to arrive at East Lawn Cemetery.
Speakers at the graveside played the traditional last radio call for Hite
about 2 p.m. That was followed by a long moment of silence before a voice
responded that "Officer Erik Hite is out of service. He is gone, but he is not
Earlier in the day, more than 2,000 mourners filled Pantano Christian
Church, where Hite was eulogized as a loving family man and a leader.
The service included slide shows of Hite as he grew up, spent time in the
Air Force and shared moments with family, including many photos with his
daughter. She turned 1 year old a week after Hite was slain in a shooting spree
that spanned the city.
Hundreds of people lined the route taken by the motorcade, which stretched
for more than 10 miles.
Monty Wallace, of Oro Valley, drove to Houghton Road to show his respect
for the officer. He carried a sandwich board with Hite's photograph, and the
words "God Bless America, Hero! Officer Hite, God Bless, never forget."
"I just came out to pay my respects. I wanted to let them know we're
supporting them, and let the wife and family know that we care. He's made the
ultimate sacrifice," Wallace said.
Hite's body arrived at the church with an escort led by more than three
dozen police officers on motorcycles.
Gov. Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Terry Goddard were among the
many dignitaries in attendance as the flag-draped casket was removed from the
hearse and carried into the church.
Bagpipes played in the background as the slain officer received an escort
of Tucson Police Department officers, his son, Roy Hite, and his wife, Katie,
who both serve in the Air Force.
The service began with a reading of Psalm 23, which begins, "The Lord is my
shepherd. ..." It was followed by a letter to Officer Hite written by his
father, Roy Hite, and then a slide show of the officer's life accompanied by
music including Boston's "More Than a Feeling."
Among the first speakers was Hite's former commander at Davis-Monthan Air
Force Base, Col. Robert Mahood, who described the former master sergeant as "an
absolute poster child" for the core values of the Air Force. He called Hite the
perfect role model for the recruits he oversaw.
Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda described the events of the day Hite
was shot, and the scene at the hospital while the officer was clinging to life.
The chief paused often to collect his composure.
Miranda praised Hite's family including his widow, Nohemy, for the strength
and love they showed through the ordeal.
"Without hesitation, he ran to that call, ran towards danger . . . He gave
up his life so that others can live free," Miranda said of Hite during a
He thanked Officer Hite for being a role model for all people who wear a
law enforcement uniform.
Several other officers spoke of Hite's love of family and job, as well as
his concern for the public.
"I didn't know him, but probably every office in the state is here," said
Arizona State Park Ranger Dick Ferdoan. "When an officer falls in the line of
duty it is proper to pay your respects."
Hite is survived by his wife, Nohemy; their 1-year-old daughter, Samantha;
his adult son, Roy; his parents, Roy and Mary Jane Hite; his birth mother, Patsy
Hansen; his sisters, Nevada Benton and Royleen Mahie; and his brother, Sean
Hite, a four-year police veteran, and his wife were members of Saguaro
Canyon Evangelical Free Church in Tucson.
Pastor Neil Watson said of Hite: “He was devoted to his wife and family,
and was passionate about his family and his God. He loved being a police
officer. He lived his life by example and walked the walk.”
Before joining the Tucson Police Department, Hite served in the Air Force
for 21 years, retiring as a master sergeant. Hite earned several
meritorious-service medals at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, said Master Sgt. Jim
But by 2004, Hite was ready to say goodbye to military life and put down
roots in Tucson, where he had dreams of joining the Police Department.
As part of the Tucson police force, he had at least one other run-in with
an armed suspect and was injured on duty.
Star archives say that in March 2005, while Hite was doing paperwork in his
patrol car, he noticed a couple arguing in the street and went over to talk to
them, but the woman threatened him, saying he would pay if he didn't leave them
Hite drew his gun after the woman reached behind her back, police said at
the time. He called for backup when the man took off running.
Hite chased the man and tried to grab him, but the woman got into a van and
struck Hite with it at a slow speed. He was not seriously injured. The woman,
who was arrested, had a steak knife in her pocket, police said at the
On June 1, Hite would go on his last call.
The incident originated in a Northwest Side neighborhood where a gunman
reportedly fired numerous rounds at two homes.
No one was injured but neighbors who witnessed the shootings called
Deputies responded to the area to check out reports and locate the gunman,
who was clad in camouflage and driving a 1988 Mustang with the top down.
Deputy Eric Cervantez was the first to spot the gunman and began to chase
him, but he opened fire on Cervantez, striking him in the shoulder.
Cervantez got out of his car and returned fire but did not hit the gunman,
who drove away.
The gunman would make his way from the Northwest Side to the Northeast
Side, firing at officers who joined the chase along the way.
It was at Tanque Verde Road and Tomahawk Trail that the gunman shot at
Hite, striking his car seven times and hitting the officer once in the
The gunman made his way on to Catalina Highway, which leads up to Mount
Lemmon, and was able to fire and graze Deputy Tory Schwartz in the head before
surrendering in a parking lot of the Molino Basin campground.
Twenty-five-year-old David Nickolas Delich was arrested. He remained in
jail this morning on a number of charges including first-degree murder,
attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharging a firearm at a
Delich is being held on $3.5 million bond.
Both deputies Cervantez and Schwartz suffered non-life-threatening
Hite was placed on life support until the following day, when he died with
his family at his side.
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