Feet away from Biden, in the front row, Evans’s son, Logan, 9, wore a police cap while clutching a teddy bear. His daughter, Abigail, 7, fiddled with a miniature Capitol souvenir toy.
“We are all shocked by the senselessness of this loss,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at the beginning of the congressional ceremony. “To Billy’s beloved children, Abigail and Logan, I want you to know we are forever indebted to your dad. We will remember his sacrifice, your sacrifice, forever.”
It was the second time in less than three months that mourners were gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to honor a fallen police officer. Evans, like Brian D. Sicknick before him, was protecting members of Congress and others on Capitol Hill from a violent incursion and died in the line of duty.
Evans, 41, was killed April 2 when he and another Capitol Police officer, standing in front of a steel barricade near the Russell Senate Office Building, were struck by a car whose driver intentionally rammed the barrier, authorities said. The other officer, Ken Shaver, survived, and the driver was fatally shot by police.
Inside the Rotunda on Tuesday morning, several dozen Capitol Police officers, including Shaver; members of Congress; and Evans’s family members sat around the coffin, which was draped in an American flag.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the family and Evans’s children that she could only imagine their sadness, but “I hope it is a comfort to them that their father, an American hero, is lying where Abraham Lincoln lay.”
As Pelosi spoke, the president picked up a toy that 7-year-old Abigail had dropped and handed it back to her.
Then it was the president’s turn to speak.
He stopped first to comfort Evans’s children, their feet dangling just above the ground, and Abigail showed him the souvenir toy she had been playing with.
Biden had been to the Rotunda to honor Sicknick just weeks earlier, and after he stepped up to the podium, he told the Capitol police officers, “I’m sorry for the second time in two months we have to have such a ceremony.”
Then he turned to Evans’s mother, Janice, and said: “Mom, I didn’t know Billy, but I knew Billy. I grew up with Billys. . . . Billy was always the kid, if you got in a fight and you were outnumbered three to one, he’d jump in, knowing you’d both get beat. He was the one who always kept his word. If he said he’d be there, he’d be there.”
For much of his address, Biden spoke as though he were having an intimate conversation with Evans’s family, barely talking into the microphone as he looked over at Janice Evans and said, “Ms. Evans, I have some idea of what you’re feeling like. I buried two of my children.”
He told the Evans family what would lie ahead, remembering his own grief: streams of people offering condolences, for a long time, “and as much as you appreciate all of that, it also is hard, you relive everything again.”
He added: “But the truth is the time’s gonna come when a memory, a fragrance, a scene, a circumstance, the way his son tilts his head the way he did when he was that age, is gonna bring back a memory.” In that moment, the president told them, the grief would again feel fresh — but in time it would get easier, he promised, “because he’s still with you, he’s still in your heart.”
The U.S. Army Chorus Quartet sang “Amazing Grace” shortly after Biden took his seat. Sitting with his hands folded and his head bowed, the president appeared to wipe away a tear.
Before leaving the Rotunda, Evans’s family rose to pay their respects, led by his mother. The mother of Evans’s children, Shannon Terranova, once again took their hands, trying to steady them for a moment beside the coffin. Streams of Capitol Police officers, including Shaver, wearing a medical boot; members of Congress; and Biden soon followed, pausing for a moment, some making the sign of the cross.
Evans is officially listed as the sixth Capitol Police officer to die in the line of duty. Sicknick, 42, died Jan. 7, a day after he and scores of fellow officers were injured by a mob that besieged the Capitol in support of President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud. Sicknick’s cremated remains lay in honor in the Rotunda on the night of Feb. 2 as Biden and others paid their respects.
In the halls beneath the Rotunda after the congressional ceremony, Capitol Police officers gathered and socialized, while one, James Skyrm, a friend of Evans, sat by himself on a bench. Some officers came by to pat him on the shoulder. A week before he died, Evans had mentioned to Skyrm that his kids liked Pokémon cards, and so he brought some with him on Tuesday to give to them.
“We worked together for 10 years,” Skyrm said. “I’d always see the pictures of his kids he had taped to his locker.”
He described Evans as someone who knew how to find a silver lining in a place where “it’s so easy to get disgruntled. But he was always very positive.”
They bonded over board games and model painting — Evans liked to paint game pieces himself as projects for his kids. And another officer said he and Evans shared a fondness for “Star Wars” and other sci-fi flicks, and cracked jokes each morning in the locker room.
“He was always willing to help, always had your back,” the officer said.
Evans, a native of North Adams, Mass., who joined the force 18 years ago, is to be buried Thursday after a private funeral in Adams, Mass.
“Billy was the best father, son, brother, and friend anyone could ever hope for,” his family said in a statement. “His death has left a gaping void in our lives that will never be filled.” As for Logan and Abigail, “their dad was a hero long before the tragic events” on Capitol Hill.
The driver of the car that struck Evans, Noah Green, 25, was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer after Green got out of the vehicle with a knife, authorities said. A relative said Green, who lived in Virginia, had shown symptoms of mental illness.
Before this year, the only members of the Capitol Police force to be killed by an attacker were Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson, who were shot July 24, 1998, by a former psychiatric patient who entered the Capitol with a gun.
On Tuesday, Evans lay in honor for more than six hours after the congressional ceremony, until 6:30 p.m., when the departure ceremony began.
Bagpipes blared “Amazing Grace” once more as the military honor guard carried Evans’s casket slowly, steadily, down the Capitol’s East Front steps. His children waited for him at the bottom, as dozens of saluting Capitol Police saw him into the hearse.
An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the mother of Evans’s children. Her name is Shannon Terranova.