A small, silent army of several hundred law enforcement officials in their uniforms of blue, brown and gray paid their last tribute yesterday to John W. Buckley, the Arlington County police officer slain last Friday during a gun battle with two bank robbers.
Sheriffs, deputies and police officers from throughout the Washington area filed slowly into the Springfield United Methodist Church. They heard Buckley described as many things - even-tempered, active, energetic, competitive, courageous, dedicated an athletic.
"Those of you who didn't know John, you really missed an opportunity to know a really fine, warm, wonderful man," Arlington police officer Thomas Hoffman, a close friend of Buckley's, told the estimated 1,000 people in the church. He said his friend and colleague "had the kind of courage we all hope we will have when we face death."
Hoffmann added that he hopes "the murderers" soon are caught "and made to pay with their lives . . . To the man on the street, John was just another cop. To all of us, John was something special.
Arlington police and FBI agents said yesterday they still are tyring to track the men who obbed the Virginia National Bank at 3401 Columbia Pike, and fatally shot Buckley, 26.
So far, the only arrest warrant issued in the case is for Charles Calvin Gary, who Virginia and Georgia authities said escape from the Fulton County, Ga., jail last March 17. He is charged in the warrant with murder, robbery and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.
Atlanta FBI agent James J. Dunn said Gary was in the Fulton County jail waiting to testify in a bank robbery trial. Previously, he was imprisoned in the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo., after being convicted on a murder charge, Dunn said.
In addition, Arlington police said they are looking for Willie Foster Sellers, 43, who allegedly escaped from the Georgia jail with Gary, for questioning. Police said they are hoping he will provide information to help them in their search for Gary.
Sellers was described by police as 6 feet 2 inches, 221 pounds, with reddish brown hair and hazel eyes.
FBI agents said Sellers also was waiting to testify in the bank robbery trial, and previously had been imprisoned at a federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill., while serving a bank robbery sentence.
The Fulton County sheriff and the FBI in Atlanta said that Gary and Sellers may be members of the so-called "Dawson Gang," a group of men and women who allegedly have robbed about 18 banks in the southeastern United States. Sheriff LeRoy Stynchcombe said the gang got its name because the first bank it allegedly robbed was in Dawson County, Ga.
Dunn, of the Atlanta FBI, said the gang allegely has robbed banks in Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia. Some members of the gang are believed to be in prison.
Stynchcombe said that Gary and Sellers were helped in their Fulton jail escape by at least t t hree armed accomplices, who used "extremely sharp chain link clippers," an acetylene blowtorch and ice picks. He said there were 16 men in the cellblock, but only Gary and Sellers escaped.
Arlington police said yesterday that after their escape from the Georgia jail, Gary and Sellers, along with their male and female associates, apparently established a base at Virginia Beach. They stayed there from late March until about last Wednesday, first in a motel and then in an apartment, the police said.
Arlington Sgt. Raymond King concede at a press conference yesterday that "apprehension (of the suspects) doesn't sound too promising" at the moment. He said that if the suspects follow their normal travel pattern, they should be heading north.
An FBI agent in Alexandria said yesterday that there is no film of the bank robbery. The film "expired before the bank robbery," he said.
Police, FBI agents and bank officials refused to disclose how much money the robbers stole.
The escapees apparently have used various vehicles in their travels, including a 1975 metallic brown Ford Granada bearing temporary tags or Virginia license KPS-653 and a brown or maroon late model Buick or Oldsmobile with a light tan or white roof. One vehicle may be pulling a U-Haul trailer with a Mississippi license plate, Arlington police said.