Police from throughout the state joined the family of Eric Shuhandler in a day of services to mourn the loss of the slain Gilbert police lieutenant and celebrate his life. Eulogies at his funeral, held in a massive, black tent at WestWorld in Scottsdale, struck a similar theme: Shuhandler's cheerful approach to life.
Police from throughout the state joined the family of Eric Shuhandler in a day of services to mourn the loss of the slain Gilbert police lieutenant and celebrate his life.
Eulogies at his funeral, held in a massive, black tent at WestWorld in Scottsdale, struck a similar theme: Shuhandler's cheerful approach to life.
"When Eric entered a room there was light, there was laughter and it was good," said Gilbert Sgt. Todd Baty.
A career criminal stands accused of gunning Shuhandler down Thursday during a traffic stop in a parking lot at Val Vista Drive and Baseline Road.
Shuhandler was laid to rest at Mount Sinai Cemetery in Phoenix where his ex-wife, in her Scottsdale police uniform; his two daughters, 10 and 12; parents; and a host of other family members were at the graveside. Surrounding them were a few thousand uniformed police officers.
Earlier at WestWorld, Shuhandler's mother, Dara Shuhandler, stood before a crowd that packed into metal bleachers and filled rows of white folding chairs.
"We are so proud being a part of your family," she said.
Shuhandler's daughters, Nicole and Meredith, joined her at the podium as she read W.H. Auden's poem, "Funeral Blues," which they personalized for him:
"Eric was my North, my South, my East and West,My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong."
Shuhandler, known as Shu, cut a remarkable presence with his 6-foot-6 frame, but he was also memorable for his passion for life whether he was traveling to the Orient, joining a fantasy league baseball camp, watching his Arizona Diamondbacks or serving as a submarine for his kids in the backyard pool, friends said.
"He worked his way into everyone's hearts through his gregarious personality and infectious smile," said Cmdr. Ken Fixel.
Fixel described his friend as a cop's cop and recalled how excited he got a few weeks ago after catching a felon in a car chase.
"'I can't believe I get paid to do this,'" Fixel said, quoting Shuhandler. "'Is that wrong?'"
Baty spoke about his disgust and anger with the suspected killers, saying he was disappointed to hear they were only wounded after a 50-mile chase that ended with a gunfight with police.
He admired the restraint it took to not kill the suspects as they lay wounded and helpless.
"I thank you (officers on the scene) for that because we're better than that," Baty said.
On Wednesday night, hundreds of people from the community, including residents, public officials and members of fire and police departments from other cities, gathered at a public memorial in front of the Gilbert Police Department to collectively mourn Shuhandler’s death and acknowledge his sacrifice.
Members of the Gilbert Fire Department hung a large American flag from the erected ladders of two fire trucks.
Eventually a long procession of law enforcement, fire and other vehicles entered the parking lot.
Mayor John Lewis told the audience that town employees had a hard time staying focused when they heard of Shuhandler’s death.
He said the event will go down in Gilbert’s history as a very sad day and acknowledged the public safety community present saying “today is a day of deep appreciation for you.”
Town manager George Pettit thanked all the officers who pursued and apprehended the suspects.
He told the audience “there is evil out there and there are things that we cannot control.”
Councilman John Sentz said Shuhandler’s death was a tragic loss for Gilbert.
“I think the one thing that stands out (was) he was a mentor to, I think, everybody that he touched,” he said.
Councilman Les Presmyk after the ceremony said Shuhandler was a great police officer. “We have lost a pillar of the police department, community and the Town of Gilbert,” he added.
Councilwoman Linda Abbott said she was grateful for the assistance Gilbert police received in apprehending the suspects adding she was confident justice would be served.
Peggy Neal, a Mesa resident, said she doesn’t think police officers are appreciated enough for what they risk to help others.
“They’re always there,” she said. “The thought of when they get out of their car – ‘is that person going to shoot or not?’ It’s always going to be there in their minds and it should have to be that way. It really shouldn’t. It’s just sad what’s happened.”
Neal said her brother is a code enforcement worker for Gilbert and knew Shuhandler.
Natalie Prinkey, who said she has members of law enforcement in her family, attended the evening’s event to show her support.
“As the wife of a police officer I feel like it’s important to show your support and love to the family,” she said.