- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

BALTIMORE Mourners, including a sea of officers and firefighters in dress blues, gathered yesterday to "celebrate the life" of a Baltimore police officer who died in a car crash while answering a call for help.
About 1,000 officers and firefighters from all over Maryland flowed into Mount Pleasant Ministries in northeast Baltimore to say goodbye to Officer Crystal Sheffield, 35. Lines of dark uniforms and crisp caps circled the pews, filling seats as officers watched more of their own ranks file in.
The choir sang as each officer walked to her open casket, stood quietly and snapped a white-gloved salute.
As they turned away, they clasped the hands of her husband, Baltimore fire Lt. William Andre Sheffield. Many gathered the burly man in a long embrace as their only child, 11-year-old Darian, looked on.
"This family is owed a debt we can't hope to repay," said Mayor Martin O'Malley, thanking Officer Sheffield's mother, Cornelia Allen, for raising children with a dedication to public service.
Officer Sheffield's sister, brother and brother-in-law also are police officers.
Officer Sheffield was in her patrol car, with sirens and flashing lights on, when she slammed into an unmarked police cruiser the night of Aug. 21. Both cars were responding to a call for backup. Two officers in the unmarked car were treated and released from the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
She was the city's first female officer to die in the line of duty and the sixth officer to die in a police vehicle crash in three years.
"She worked in one of the toughest sections of the city, and she lost her life answering a call for help. She is truly a hero and role model for all," said Police Commissioner Edward Norris, who spoke along with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
After a service of almost three hours, mourners were led by police motorcade through closed streets to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in northwest Baltimore.
Music from a live band and a full choir filled the sanctuary, moving mourners and some officers to stand and sway, clapping to the beat. A female minister in white and purple robes danced through the aisles, lifting her hands toward the altar and the crowd as they sang and cheered.
"We are here to celebrate the life of a child of God. Sister Sheffield was a child of God first," said the Rev. Clifford Johnson, pastor of Mount Pleasant Ministries, drawing more exclamations and a standing ovation.
In a letter to Officer Sheffield, included in her funeral program, her husband praised her spirit and said he knows he and Darian now have "a heavenly cop watching our backs."
He thanked her for their 15 years together. "I can only hope to copy your spirit and drive and be half the person that you were," he said.
Officer Sheffield joined the police department three years ago and began working the midnight shift in April 2000. A tribute in her funeral program said she had a "zest for life," and that she loved her job.
"She was known for her ability to defuse a tense situation," Mr. O'Malley said. "Every day she put on that uniform, and every day she made a difference. Every day she chose to fight crime and do one of the hardest jobs in the world."

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