WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. – WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (AP) — Two West Memphis police officers slain during a roadside shootout with an anti-government advocate and his son were remembered Monday as dedicated public servants and as loving fathers.
Hundreds of mourners, including family, friends, neighbors and their fellow law enforcement officers packed the West Memphis High School auditorium to pay tribute to the fallen officers, Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans.
Paudert, the 39-year-old son of Police Chief Robert Paudert, will be remembered for living the "code of law enforcement, which is to protect and serve," and for doing it "with passion," police department chaplain the Rev. Billy Beech told mourners.
Beech said Paudert's family was grateful for the support they had received, "the hugs, the cards, the phone calls, the food, you just being here today."
"Don't stop ... that's what they'll need in the days to come."
During the service, the police chief comforted his slain son's wife, daughter and two sons.
Hours later, mourners paid tribute to Evans, a 38-year-old father of two who was engaged to be married.
It was Evans who pulled over a white van being driven by 45-year-old Jerry Kane of Forest, Ohio, and his 16-year-old son, Joseph Kane.
Authorities say the Kanes fired on the officers with AK-47 assault rifles, killing them. About 90 minutes later, police killed the two suspects during a shootout in which two other officers were wounded.
Pastor Rusty Blann said Evans had a way of making those he talked to feel like they "were the most important person on the whole earth."
"He loved bringing laughter into your life," Blann said.
Many questions remain about what led to the shootout, and both the police department and FBI declined Monday to comment about their investigations.
Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said the agency would not yet disclose the reason for the traffic stop.
"We're not going to discuss any aspect of the investigation until it's closed and has been reviewed by a prosecuting attorney," Sadler said.
Kane had a long history with police and recently complained about being busted at a "Nazi checkpoint" near Carrizozo, N.M., where court records show he spent three days in jail before posting a $1,500 bond on charges of driving without a license and concealing his identity.
A woman at a home in Clearwater, Fla., that is listed as the address of Donna Lee Wray, who described herself on Kane's website and in a newspaper article as his common-law wife, declined to speak to an Associated Press reporter on Monday. In an e-mail Monday, Wray said the Kanes have been unfairly characterized in news reports as anti-government, but she declined a phone interview.
Wray told Memphis, Tenn., newspaper The Commercial Appeal that FBI agents visited her home and told her Kane's son, Joe, gunned down Paudert and Evans.
"Jerry had nothing to do with it," she told the newspaper Saturday.
Kane made money holding debt-elimination seminars around the country, and he was known for railing against the government, saying it held no authority over him.
Wray told The Commercial Appeal that her husband's distrust of government began after his infant daughter's death 14 years ago from what was diagnosed as sudden infant death syndrome. She said the hospital insisted on conducting an autopsy, against Kane's wishes.
"He just couldn't understand that," Wray said.
She said Joe idolized his father and would parrot his anti-government views, and that the two grew closer after the death of Kane's first wife and Joe's mother, Hope, of complications from pneumonia in 2007.
Wray said she met Kane in February at one of his seminars, and within weeks Kane and his son had moved in with her and her two children in Clearwater.
She said she couldn't imagine what led to the shootout between her husband and the police. She said Kane wouldn't have killed anyone but that she wasn't sure what Joe would have done if he felt his father was in danger.
Associated Press Writer Jill Zeman Bleed in Little Rock contributed to this story.