ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - As thousands of police officers and mourners looked on, the widows of two officers who were killed in the line of duty were gently handed flags that draped their husbands' caskets on Friday.
Joint funeral services for St. Petersburg Police Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz lasted three hours.
The two officers were shot and killed by a fugitive while helping serve a warrant Monday. The fugitive, Hydra Lacy Jr., died during the shootout.
The officers' colleagues talked about how the killings have shaken the force. Some, like St. Petersburg Police Maj. Michael Kovacsev, have investigated countless homicides -- yet this tragedy has affected them profoundly.
"I am out of tears," said Major Michael Kovacsev. "It's hurting beyond words."
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster spoke at the service, along with several friends of the two men.
"I'm still angry at this incident," said Police Chief Chuck Harmon. "Hydra Lacy took a piece of me, two pieces of me. As far as I'm concerned, he got off too easily."
There were signs of mourning throughout the Gulf Coast city. Businesses wrote condolences on billboards, a local TV station carried the entire funeral service live and some residents attended in person.
"I watched it unfold on Monday," said 53-year-old David Sharpe of St. Petersburg, who didn't know the men but attended the service. "I may be just one more face in the crowd but I was in search of words of inspiration."
Many wanted to express their appreciation for the officers and their families.
"I feel like it was important to show support for the police," said Priscilla Jenkins, 31, who watched the funeral from the church parking lot, where big-screen televisions broadcast the ceremony inside. Jenkins brought her 4-year-old son so she could teach him a lesson to "respect authority and to be a good person."
After the service, a helicopter formation flew over the church as honor guard officers carried the two flag-draped caskets into a courtyard. A 21-gun salute, a bugler playing "Taps" and the release of white doves ended the somber ceremony.
Yaslowitz, a 38-year-old K-9 officer who had qualified for SWAT duty, leaves behind a wife; two sons, ages 12 and 5; and his 8-year-old daughter. He was an 11-year veteran of the force who loved major league baseball's Boston Red Sox.
His wife, Lorraine Yaslowitz, gave an interview Thursday morning on WFLZ-FM's MJ Morning Show radio program with host Todd "MJ" Schnitt. Lorraine Yaslowitz, a kindergarten teacher, was pulled out of her classroom when the shootings happened and driven to the hospital, where her husband was pronounced dead.
"I talk to him all the time," she told the station. "I miss him and I love him more than anyone can love a human being."
She said the last time she and her children saw him, Yaslowitz fired up the emergency lights on his St. Petersburg police SUV so his wife and son could watch from inside.
Baitinger, a 48-year-old Wisconsin native, started his law enforcement career in that state before joining the St. Petersburg department in 1996. He was remembered as a caring supervisor and good friend with a quirky sense of humor. He was an enthusiastic Green Bay Packers fan and was celebrating their win in Sunday's NFL playoff game. He is survived by his wife.
The killings are the latest in a series of law enforcement deaths in Florida. Two officers in Miami were killed by a murder suspect earlier this month. And two Tampa officers were killed last July while making a traffic stop.