- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 25, 2005

Friends, family members and fellow law-enforcement officers yesterday remembered slain Prince George’s County Police Sgt. Steven F. Gaughan as a great friend, excellent officer and a hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for his community.

“Last Tuesday morning, my fellow church member and my friend laid down his life so that his and my kids could live in a safe community,” said Pastor Mark A. Johnson of Greenbelt Baptist Church. “That’s why I have joy this afternoon, even through tears.”

The funeral, held at the Riverdale Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, was attended by hundreds of mourners who filled the pews to pay their final respects.

Sgt. Gaughan was fatally shot late Tuesday morning following an unsuccessful traffic stop in which a passenger fled the vehicle, then shot Sgt. Gaughan outside a Laurel apartment complex, just five days after his 41st birthday. He was the department’s 24th officer to be killed in the line of duty.

Police have arrested Robert Mark Billett, 43, a Jamaican citizen who lives in Bladensburg, in connection with the shooting and have charged him with first-degree murder.

The ceremony also was attended by hundreds of police officers from across the region who wore black arm bands, lined the walkway to the church and carried the flag-draped casket. A bagpipe processional pierced the still air as they saluted their fallen comrade.

Friends and family remembered Sgt. Gaughan a “man’s man,” and said the same joyful and mischievous spirit he displayed at home became his calling card at work.

“Steve was the kind of policeman who would arrest a criminal, and by the time they got to the station the criminal would be laughing and be an informant working for Steve,” said Percy Alston, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, which represents Prince George’s officers.

“The way we saw him as a friend, that’s how he was at work, that’s how he was at church,” said Ko Klaver, chairman of deacons at Greenbelt Baptist, where Sgt. Gaughan was a member and volunteered in children’s and homeless ministries. “He will sure be missed.”

Retired police officer Brent Hayes, who knew Sgt. Gaughan as a rookie cop fresh from Boston more than 15 years ago, said his friend was an excellent officer recognized for his narcotics arrests. But he also was a prankster who loved to play practical jokes, including placing fake buck teeth in his mouth while on the job.

“Ninety percent of what he used to do, I cannot say,” Mr. Hayes said, smiling.

Mr. Hayes recalled the time he was watching a Miami Dolphins football game at Sgt. Gaughan’s home. Sgt. Gaughan, a diehard Dolphins fan with a team tattoo on his leg, got up to help his wife, Donna, carry in the groceries, as his team was about to score a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.

“I wouldn’t have got off the couch,” he said. “Steve ran to the door, gave his wife a kiss and said ‘Honey, I’ll get the packages.’”

Sgt. Gaughan’s brother, Michael, said his sibling was a “self-proclaimed miracle child” with a competitive spirit.

“On the job he had to have more arrests … and playing hockey he had to have more penalties than” his brother, Michael Gaughan said. “Perhaps the miracle of Steve was the lives he touched.”

Police Chief Melvin C. High attended the funeral, along with County Executive Jack B. Johnson and county State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. Chief High posthumously promoted the corporal to the rank of sergeant, saluted the casket and called Sgt. Gaughan a “brave soldier of God.”

“The road we travel is hard and difficult and not for the faint of heart,” Chief High said. “Steve, I thank you for stepping forward.”

Sgt. Gaughan was buried at Lakemont Memorial Gardens in Davidsonville following the service. He is survived by his wife, a former Prince George’s County police officer, and their two adopted children, Daniel and Rachel.

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