Anthony “Tony” Holly died as a hero to his family, friends and the many who knew him. The Glendale police officer, shot during a traffic stop on Monday, was laid to rest Friday in a casket draped with the American flag in front of thousands, including police officers from across the state.
Hundreds of people hoisted flags, signs and banners that thanked the 24-year-old for his service. The crowds filled sidewalks and stood atop highway overpasses along his processional drive from Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria to Phoenix Memorial Cemetery.
“He loved to serve his community,” his brother Christopher Holly said. “No longer was this boy content with making us feel better. His primary objective was now to make you feel safer, to be safer.”
Holly was born in Mesa and grew up in Peoria. He was the first Glendale officer killed in the line of duty in 22 years.
He was shot while backing up another officer. Holly told the shooter to stay in the car, but shots rang out and Holly fell to the ground, said Glendale police chaplain Darlene Danniger. “Then you heard the words that stand still: start the rescue units, officer down.”
Flags at state buildings flew at half staff in Holly’s remembrance.
Bagpipes, a helicopter flyover and a convoy of police motorcycles and cars led Holly’s procession. His casket was lowered after officers placed a folded flag into his mother’s arms and several gunshots fired in his honor.
Holly was a four-year Air Force veteran and member of the Air Force Honor Guard. He mentored children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and also spent weekends playing catch with children at local parks, his stepfather Jon Bonner said.
“The word selfless is not an embellishment when it comes to my little brother,” said older brother Christopher. “It’s cold hard fact.”
Several Glendale officers, relatives and friends spoke emotionally of “their Tony,” whose smile, blue eyes, humor and loud off-key renditions of Neil Diamond were said to brighten any situation.
The memories shared of Holly brought smiles among the tears of those throughout the crowd.
“I was so proud of him, and I don’t think he ever knew how much I bragged about him,” said his older brother Jim, who had just learned how to ride a motorcycle with Holly. “I’m so grateful for the time I got to spend with him.”
In a note read by Glendale police Chief Steve Conrad from Nancy Bonner, Tony’s mom, she said she asked her son why he would want to spend days dealing with evil people and troublemakers. Tony answered, “I want to, so people like you don’t have to.”
Tony Holly had the phrase “Live, Love, Serve, Die” tattooed on his right shoulder.
“That’s it, that was Tony,” Jim Holly said.