Off-duty officer killed in Vegas shooting left funeral notes
A Las Vegas police officer and U.S. Army veteran who was among 58 people killed in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history provided instructions ahead of time for those at his memorial not to mourn, a pastor told the crowd at his funeral on Friday.
“If you’re reading this, then I’ve been called home,” said the computer file that Charleston Hartfield began about a year ago. Senior Central Christian Church Pastor Mike Bodine said it was found by Hartfield’s wife, Veronica, following his death Oct. 1.
Along with heartfelt messages to his family and instructions not to wear black and to play Johnny Cash and Nina Simone songs, Bodine told the more than more than 2,000 people at Hartsfield’s service that he wanted them to enjoy themselves and remember him for who he was.
“The truth only,” Hartfield’s message added. “None of that stuff about how great I was.”
Everyone broke that rule over the next hour.
Friends, his cousin, brother and sister, and police and military officials including Brig. Gen. Zachary Doser, the head of the Nevada Army National Guard, characterized the man most called “Chucky” as an inspiration, a mentor and a quick wit.
Chris Stockton, a cousin who grew up with Hartfield, said he razzed Hartfield about joining the 82nd Airborne and jumping out of airplanes instead of joining the U.S. Marines, like he did. Hartfield responded that he couldn’t get his head to fit in a jar — a friendly swipe between close friends at the close-cropped reputation of the Marines.
Doser praised Hartfield, who at age 34 had accumulated 17 years of military service in Iraq and with a quartermaster unit in the Nevada Guard, as the epitome of “everything good about being an American.”
He posthumously promoted Hartfield to first sergeant in the Army Reserve.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo called Hartfield, an 11-year police veteran, a “remarkable officer” killed by “an unremarkable person.” Investigators have not determined what motivated the shooter, a 64-year-old retired accountant, real estate investor and high-stakes gambler, to plan and execute his attack.
Lombardo said Hartfield ‘s death was considered on-duty because he tried to shield, protect and shepherd people in a concert crowd from danger.
“That night, in a hail of gunfire, Charlie’s last actions spoke for him,” Lombardo said. “He took actions to save lives.”
The sheriff wasn’t the only person to recall a passage at the end of a book Hartfield wrote about life as a police officer, called “Memoirs Of A Public Servant.”
“To the world you may be but one person, but to one person you may be the world,” it said.
Hundreds of police officers and military service members filled the Henderson, Nevada, church where bagpipes played and pallbearers bore Hartfield’s flag-draped casket into the auditorium. Speakers stepped to a podium flanked by a two pair of western boots. One, a worn brown pair, was stitched with the American flag.
Earlier, a blocks-long police motorcade caused traffic and tourists to stop for a moment on the Las Vegas Strip, where the procession passed the scene of the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival country music concert near the Mandalay Bay resort.
Some saluted and at least one man wept as a phalanx of more than 50 police motorcycles with lights flashing led a police pickup truck bearing the flag-draped casket on a sunny and breezy day that had palm trees waving in the wind.
Doser, who viewed the spectacle from inside the procession, said he’ll never forget passing a woman standing alone with a rose in one hand and her other hand over her heart.
Associated Press writer Sally Ho contributed to this report.