Published: 06.10.2008

UPDATED: Thousands turn out to honor slain Tucson police officer
Governor Napolitano and Attorney General Goddard among the dignitaries at his funeral
By Alexis Huicochea
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.
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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 forgotten."
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 eulogy.
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.
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 Fisher.
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 alone.
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 time.
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 911.
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 head.
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 structure.
Delich is being held on $3.5 million bond.
Both deputies Cervantez and Schwartz suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Hite was placed on life support until the following day, when he died with his family at his side.