ROSEVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of law enforcement officers on Thursday honored a deputy killed during a shootout at a Sacramento-area hotel, remembering him as a hero who kept shooting even after he was mortally wounded.
Deputy Robert French died in last week’s gunbattle with 32-year-old Thomas Daniel Littlecloud, who also later died.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said during the deputy’s memorial service that French “even in death, stood tall as a warrior, continued to fight until everybody else was safe.”
Jones said earlier this week that French responded after Littlecloud began firing at other deputies and California Highway Patrol officers who were investigating two stolen cars found at the hotel.
Two CHP officers were wounded but were recovering. French, 52, kept shooting even after a bullet bypassed his bulletproof vest and entered his heart, Jones said.
Littlecloud had a lengthy criminal record and was wanted by authorities.
“I feel angry that his killer should never have been out of prison,” Jones said. And after Littlecloud died at the hospital several days later, “I was just angry that he escaped the justice system.”
Jones and other officers had their badges covered in black mourning bands as they spoke before a flag-draped coffin flanked by a white-gloved honor guard.
French was killed on the 10th anniversary of his parents’ deaths in a plane crash.
His children told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that French’s parents crashed and died in a small plane at a small Northern California airport on Aug. 30, 2007, as they took off for a scuba trip to Ensenada, Mexico.
A chaplain recalled at French’s memorial service how he had to break the news to the deputy at the time.
“It’s been horrendous,” Nicholas French, 30, told the Bee in an interview Wednesday that included his sister Kaylen Bynoe and stepbrother Kosai French, who was legally adopted by his stepfather. “Nobody wants to hear what we all had to hear.”
He said he remembers getting the phone call from his father about his grandparents.
“I knew there was something wrong because he was crying,” Nicholas French said.
The three remembered their father as a devoted dad and detective who grew up all over the United States and loved country music and the Dallas Cowboys.
Bynoe said he got great joy in the last years of his life from his girlfriend, Kara Merino.
“He just loved her so much,” Bynoe said. “He looked like a different person when he was with her.”