Thousands honor slain Brevard County deputy at funeral

Barbara Pill, 52, shot and killed on duty

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Thousands gathered in a Melbourne church on Tuesday to honor the Brevard County deputy who was shot and killed on duty last week.

Deputy Barbara Pill, 52, was shot and killed while on a traffic stop last Tuesday.

The funeral for Pill continued outside Calvary Chapel with a 21-gun salute, playing of Taps and sheriff's office flyover in the "missing man formation", to honor the life that has been lost.

Pill's casket was placed at the front of Calvary Chapel where a service for the slain deputy began at 10:30 a.m.

"She died at the service of God, facing evil head on, she never wavered she never faltered," said Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker.

Pill's family spoke fondly of their mother at her funeral and how strong of a person she was.

"Our mom had great courage in everyday life," said Pill's son, Ryan. "She was the backbone and center of our entire family and was the lifeline of many and never asked for anything in return."

Ryan Pill was accompanied on stage by brother Jeremy, and stepbrother, Joshua. They got choked up as they talked of Pill's courage and heroism as their inspiration to be in law enforcement.

"With courage and heroism, this is the oath that she chose, one that we have chosen as well. To run toward danger without hesitation, to protect the community," Ryan said.

Hundreds of students from Melbourne Central Catholic High and Florida Air Academy lined streets for a procession from Fountainhead Funeral Home in the 7300 block of Babcock Street at at 8:30 a.m.

Students in Brevard Public Schools will observe a moment of silence.

The "Honor Flag" hangs on display inside of the chapel, located on Minton Road. The flag  travels throughout the country and is flown at funerals of fallen military members, law enforcement and firefighters. It was displayed at Ground Zero in New York City and recently flew to the International Space Station with the crew of Space Shuttle Atlantis.

An escort carefully removed the flag-draped coffin from the hearse just before 10 a.m. and led it into the front entrance of the church while family members looked on.

To accommodate as many people as possible, an "overflow" area was set up where mourners can watch the service through a live feed as the 3,200-seat church sanctuary fills up.

Gov. Rick Scott attended the funeral. The church service wrapped up around 11:30 a.m.

Calvary Chapel Melbourne Senior Pastor Mark Balmer ended the service with a heartfelt farewell.

"So today we say farewell to Barbara with hopes in our heart, for hope in in eternal promises, Almighty God, as Christians thank you that we will see Barbara again in heaven," 

SLIDESHOW: Thousands honor | VIDEO: Full coverage

The community has emotionally responded to Pill's death, by starting fundraisers for her family. Sonny's Barbecue in Viera raised more than $11,000 for "The Pill Family Benefit Trust" Monday night.

Deputies from all over Central Florida came to Pill's funeral to pay their respects.

"We're paying our respect to her but ultimately she give her whole life to the community," said deputy Matt Denardo of Orange County.

Parker said nothing compares to burying a deputy.

"It's been a nightmare- it's one of the reasons I didn't want to be sheriff to be honest with you," Parker said. "It's one of those things you hope will never happen."

As officers filled th parking lot, the fourth through eighth grade students at Calvary chapel's school watched on. The principal said Pill's story is a necessary lesson that can't be taught from a textbook.

"The lesson is that our law enforcement officers deserve our utmost respect and we need to thank them and realize what they do everyday to keep all of us safe," said principal Lynn Rogers.

Meanwhile, the two suspects charged with Pill's murder will be arraigned next month.

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