Police bid farewell to their 'gentle giant' Officer called kind to the disturbed, but tough on thugs

November 05, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police buried a "gentle giant" yesterday as more than 2,500 officers heard tributes to a colleague whom they described as kind enough to spend an hour consoling a disturbed man but angry whenever a bad guy got away.

Officer Harold J. Carey, who was killed in a car accident Friday while riding in a police van that was speeding to help a fellow officer, was eulogized in song, poetry and Scripture during a packed funeral service at Central Church of Christ on Edmondson Avenue.

"This was a terrible and sudden tragedy," said Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier. "Words cannot express the pain we feel. We are honored to have known such a distinguished individual. His presence will be forever sacred."

Carey, 28, known for his size but gentle demeanor, was buried under the tearful watch of his wife, Karen, and father, Harold A. Carey Jr., a dozen family members and officers from nearly every jurisdiction in Maryland and several beyond.

A sea of police cars packed the expansive parking lot of the Edmondson Village shopping center, and when the service concluded, officers four deep formed a two-block review for the flag-draped casket.

Portions of the Baltimore Beltway were closed as 32 police motorcycles led a 400-car procession from the church to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, where many police and firefighters are buried.

Throughout the 90-minute service, officers praised Carey for helping others in need. He was racing to the aid of Officer Ty Crane when the van he was in collided with a police cruiser.

"All he was doing was trying to help, and he paid the ultimate price," said Sgt. Mark Walrath, who described Carey as his "best friend on and off duty."

One of the most poignant moments came two hours before the funeral, when the two officers injured in the crash were taken into the church in wheelchairs.

Officers Lavon'de Alston and Keith L. Owens, both 30, were wearing neck braces, but that didn't prevent them from putting on their dress-blue uniforms and white gloves. Each smiled and waved as they were wheeled past top commanders on their way into the church.

Carey was the 98th officer to die in the line of duty since 1870. Two days before the accident, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he received a framed portrait of the last officer who died, Lt. Owen E. Sweeney Jr., shot last year.

The mayor, speaking from the pulpit, recalled four years ago when his half-brother was killed in a car accident. "It was as if all the warmth had left the world and only cold was left," Schmoke told the mourners. "Eventually, the weight lifted," he said, but "It didn't happen overnight."

Carey was born in Baltimore, grew up in the Mondawmin neighborhood and graduated from Douglass High School. He was the oldest son born to his father and the late Lucille K. Carey Vaughn.

He was baptized and married at Westside Church of Christ on Johnnycake Road, which was too small to hold the funeral. He briefly studied engineering, but his friends said yesterday that he had always wanted to be a police officer.

Sgt. Terrance McClarney said Carey despised criminals, and consistently led his shift in drug and gun arrests.

"He was one of the few who thought that we actually could stop the violence, stop the drugs," McClarney said. "He once told me that he considered it an insult if the drug dealers didn't close up their shop when he came on duty. The smart ones did."

The sergeant recalled that he and Carey, who was 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 250 pounds, responded to a psychiatric hospital to deal with a disturbed man. "The nurse told me, 'You're going to need more police.' I thought, 'Why would I need more police? I got Harold.' "

McClarney said they found a man larger than Carey sitting on the floor reading a car magazine. Carey, a car buff himself, sat down beside the man and discussed articles for an hour to calm the man.

Friends remembered Carey as the "big man" who was fond of sitting down to a large meal and saying: "Don't let the food defeat you. Defeat the food."

Officer Lenny Mungo joked that his friend with the rumpled uniform and white socks just couldn't outrun some of the street criminals. "He must have had some of the shortest police chases in Baltimore Police Department history," Mungo said.

Leon Phelps, minister at Westside Church of Christ, recalled baptizing him and, in 1993, performing Carey's wedding ceremony. "Now," he said, "I must sadly lead you in saying goodbye, for a little while."

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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