Friends, city mourn Bellaire officer killed on duty
Police veteran, killed in traffic stop that turned deadly, remembered as someone always eager to help others
Updated 2:32 pm, Sunday, December 30, 2012
More than 1,000 people stood Saturday afternoon as the family of slain Bellaire police officer Sgt. Jimmie Norman walked into Houston's First Baptist Church to take their seats.
City, county, state and federal officers uniformed in shades of blue, black and brown watched silently for six minutes as Norman's family members walked past. The silence was broken only by the whisper of an overhead projector as it cycled through images of Norman's life as a 28-year police veteran, husband of 31 years, father to two adult children and charitable friend to many more.
The photos showed a man who often wore Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, whether in uniform, posing with family at the Missouri state line, or cheering at an Astros game.
Norman, 53, was fatally shot Christmas Eve after a traffic stop became a deadly confrontation that also ended with the death of a bystander who came to his aid, Terry Taylor. The suspect, Harlem Harold Lewis, was left in critical condition and has been charged with capital murder.
Friends and family who attended the funeral remained silent throughout the service, only softly chuckling a couple times and often raising hands to wipe tears.
"I have no words," said Bellaire Police Chief Byron Holloway. "I have pain. But I have no words."
Norman, the first Bellaire officer to die on duty, was remembered primarily as a man eager to help others.
Shortly after he joined the Bellaire Police Department in 1985, he asked Holloway, a sergeant at the time, if he could take off one November Saturday to spend his birthday with family. Holloway made it happen and listened as Norman gave him pointers on replacing some carpet, which he had hoped to get done before the holidays.
Holloway couldn't remember if it was a van or a pickup, but Norman pulled up in front of his house Saturday morning in something that had a roll of carpet sticking out the back. He'd brought his own tools and spent much of his birthday helping Holloway with his carpet.
"He took about a day to do what would've taken me about a month," Holloway said, as a few in the audience chuckled softly. "That's the Jimmie Norman I knew."
That also was the man brother-in-law Randy Dobbs remembered as he wrote his eulogy for the service.
"I know he'd tell me, 'Randy, this is not about me. This is about all of you,' " Dobbs said. "It always was about others."
He called Norman the family handyman and grill master. Dobbs considered himself a "Point A-to-Point B" kind of guy, but grew to appreciate how Norman always added hours to family road trips by taking detours.
'My dad is my hero'
Others who spoke recognized the sacrifices of officers still serving, asked for prayers to support the Taylor family and thanked Norman's wife and children for sharing him with the community.
Daniel Norman helped his sister, Dallas, up the steps of the stage. She took a deep breath as she unfolded the paper where she'd written her speech.
She thanked the community for supporting her family through their grief, saying they'd received notes from as far as Canada.
"My dad is my hero," she said, taking a deep breath. "He'd do anything for everyone, just like all these people have already said."
Her brother stood behind her as she recalled the usual Christmas routine from their childhood.
"We'd get up extra, extra early so Dad could be there to see what Santa brought," she said. "Then he would proudly go in the room to put on his uniform and go to work without ever complaining.
"My father was a very loved man and he loved 10 times in return," she said.
Family passed a green Kleenex box down a row of seats as Daniel helped Dallas back to hers.
The room was silent again as three officers folded a flag from the state capitol thirteen times. Holloway stood nearby. The projector softly hummed as one officer ran his hands over the folds to ensure they were crisp before he handed it to Holloway.
Holloway took measured steps toward the row where Norman's family sat. He knelt and handed the flag to his daughter, resting one hand over hers.
Daniel looked straight ahead, up toward a cross hanging behind the stage. Mitzie, Norman's wife, wrapped an arm around her daughter.