Slain Charlotte officer remembered as stern cop with soft heart for family

Ashley Eyer and son Andrew watch during a memorial service for Officer Joshua Eyer on Friday in Charlotte. (Chris Carlson / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — Friends, colleagues and the wife of fallen Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Joshua Eyer remembered him Friday as a hard-charging outwardly stern cop who also peppered friends with “how’s things” texts and showered love on his wife and young son.

Thousands packed the sanctuary at Charlotte’s First Baptist Church for Eyer’s memorial service, badges crossed with black ribbons, as they honored the life and sacrifice of a man who would push as hard to arrest a homicide suspect as he would someone who stole a sandwich.

Eyer was killed Monday along with three other officers and the suspect they were trying to arrest as they tried to serve a felon possessing a gun weapon warrant in a Charlotte neighborhood. The first three officers were killed as they arrived at the home. Eyer was shot as he rushed to help his fallen comrades.

“Full speed, no matter the cost. That couldn’t have been more in evidence by his actions Monday,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Detective Thomas Maddox, who worked in Eyer’s division for five years.

Eyer’s funeral was the first of four around Charlotte after the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement in one incident since five officers were killed by a sniper during a protest in Dallas in 2016.

Also killed Monday were Sam Poloche and William Elliott of the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections and Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks. Elliott’s memorial service is Thursday at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory. Times for the other services have not been announced.

Eyer’s body in a flag-draped coffin was brought from police headquarters on a horse-drawn caisson three blocks to the church where the late evangelist Billy Graham held his first crusade.

Officers lined the street as dozens marched playing bagpipes and drums. Behind them were hundreds more Charlotte-Mecklenburg officers walking quietly in dress uniforms to the church where an American flag hung from the top of a firetruck’s tall ladder.

Eyer and Nicholas Ferreria went to the police academy together in 2017 and ended up in the same division.

“Homicide suspect, he would get you. Stole a sandwich from QT, he would get you,” Ferreria said, flanked on one side by a picture of Eyer in his police uniform and on the other by Eyer with his wife and nearly 3-year-old son, Andrew.

Eyer’s sometimes harsh face — traffic duty infuriated him because people drove so carelessly and poorly — melted away when you got to know him better, and he couldn’t hide the way he loved his wife and son, Ferreria said.

Ashley Ayer met her husband in college. She asked everyone in the pews to help her teach their son what a good man his father was.

“Joshua thank you for giving me a beautiful life and for a beautiful son. We won’t let you down, OK? I love you so much, Sunshine. I’ll see you soon,” she said.

Detective Maddox said he’s determined to let Eyer’s son know that “his father died a hero with a full heart” and the rest of his family know what he meant to his friends, but also the community he served. Eyer wasn’t scheduled to work Monday but took a few hours so he could be off for a family event later.

“Mr. Eyer, I watched you Monday night look down at your son and tell him over 15 times you were proud of him as he lay there with the American flag draped across of him. I can look across this room today and say you aren’t the only one proud of your son,” Maddox said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings honored Eyer as Officer of the Month for April just a few weeks before he was killed.

“Officer Eyer, you represent everything great about this badge I wear over my heart and this patch I wear on my sleeve,” Jennings said.

Eyer’s body left the church and was taken in a slow procession of hundreds of police vehicles with their blue lights on to his final resting place at Sharon Memorial Park.