Hundreds of law enforcement officers gathered yesterday for the funeral of a D.C. police officer who was killed by a Prince George's County officer last week, and heard police officials and clergymen speak words meant to soothe a grieving family and heal the wounds of a fractured police fraternity.
The body of Officer James L. Gordon, 40, lay in a flag-draped coffin surrounded by sprays of flowers at the base of the pulpit at the Metropolitan AME Church on M Street NW.
So emotional was the scene that even as the funeral began, his daughter, 11-year-old Dawn Gordon, wept aloud and, with adult arms around her, was led out of the sanctuary.
D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. offered tributes to Gordon, calling the 17-year police veteran a courageous, caring and dedicated officer.
Then Turner addressed the question that has hung like a dark cloud over the D.C. and Prince George's police departments since Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, investigating a Monday night report of a burglary in Gordon's Largo house, apparently mistook the D.C. officer for an armed burglar and shot him.
"One asks oneself how can this be? But as much as we ask ourselves, we cannot find the answers," Turner said.
Deputy Chief Addison L. Davis followed Turner to the pulpit and, at times pausing as if to choke back tears, admonished the mourners to remember that, like any other family, the police family will have disagreements.
"I want everybody to know that Jimmy, when he became a law enforcement officer, joined a special family . . . . Society cannot survive without us. We can't survive without each other," Davis said.
"Also, don't forget about our other brother, Corporal Raimond. He shares in this tragedy."
Many officers dabbed their eyes as Davis spoke.
When he completed his remarks, the police choir, the Ambassadors of Goodwill, sang "Amazing Grace." As the singers reached a crescendo in the line "I once was lost but now am found," a woman's voice shrieked with grief.
Since Gordon's death, emotions among members of the two departments from neighboring jurisdictions have run high and relations have been strained.
Some D.C. officers have questioned Raimond's conduct and the Prince George's investigation that followed.
Questions have been raised about whether Gordon was warned properly by Raimond, whether prompt medical attention was administered and when D.C. police officials were informed and allowed access to the shooting scene.
Suggestions of racism also have tinged the shooting's aftermath. Gordon was black; Raimond is white. Raimond has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending a review by Prince George's police and by an independent investigator appointed by the county state's attorney.
A contingent of Prince George's County officers, led by Chief Michael J. Flaherty, attended the funeral.
Turner, who last week received a point-by-point response from Flaherty to the criticisms surrounding Gordon's death, said afterward that the Prince George's presence at the funeral "exemplifies, to a large degree, the fraternity of law enforcement officers. This was an unfortunate tragedy and we're all at a loss to explain" why it happened.
Scores of officers from other departments also attended, including Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Alexandria, Baltimore City, Maryland State Police, and the Army, Secret Service, Park Police and Capitol Police.
The Rev. Ernest B. Cunningham, D.C. police chaplain, urged them all not only to seek understanding about Gordon's death, but also to take stock.
"We live out our lives in the presence of mystery," he said.
The D.C. police honor guard led the procession out of the sanctuary, and officers in crisp uniforms -- some blue, gray or military green -- filled M Street. All stood at attention, hands raised in salute, as the casket was carried out and placed into a royal blue hearse.
A procession of nearly 60 official cars and 120 civilian vehicles wound its way through the streets to Harmony Memorial Park in Prince George's County.
The procession took a short, special detour to drive down Bladensburg Road, where half a dozen officers stood at attention in front of the 5th District station house where Gordon was assigned.
Once in Maryland, county police officers blocked off intersections and stood stiffly at their cruisers, while motorists, some with Christmas trees tied to their car roofs, waited patiently on the shoulder of the road.
As Cunningham read from the Bible, Gordon's casket was carried to a grave amid muffled sounds from a police scanner that echoed from a clump of blue uniforms pressed shoulder to shoulder.
A detachment from the Army's Old Guard unit based at Fort Myer fired a 21-gun salute.
Gordon had reenlisted for three more years in the Army Reserve in a ceremony last Sunday, said Sgt. 1st Class Lynn Hill, Gordon's friend and Army supervisor in the training unit of the 80th Division's Heavy Weapon Committee.
When the graveside service ended, a few D.C. police officers walked past officers from Prince George's County but many others stopped to mingle, shake hands and talk briefly with county police.
County Chief Flaherty and D.C. Chief Turner walked together by themselves for about 50 yards, smiled and chatted. The pair appeared to show a genuine and friendly bond that seemed to have survived a monumental testing last week.
As Turner slowed to get into his car, he turned to Flaherty and said: "This is unfortunate, man. If you need anything, holler."
Later, Flaherty said that he would make a statement about the shooting investigation "in several days" and that he and Turner were on good terms.
"Maurice and I have no problems. We get along very well," Flaherty said. "We know what happened."