(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans, who died in the line of duty April 2 when a car struck him and then rammed into a barricade, is lying in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke Tuesday at a tribute to the fallen Capitol police officer attended by members of Congress.
Biden reflected on his own grief, saying that having buried two of his own children he understands the pain of losing a loved one and how painful the memories can be.
“Your son, your husband, your brother, your dad was a hero, and he’s part of you, he’s in your blood,” Biden said. “My prayer for you is that moment of a smile comes before the tear, quicker and longer.”
Before departing the Capitol, the president met with the family of Officer Evans, according to the White House.
The House Chaplain, Margaret Grun Kibben, delivered a prayer to begin the ceremony. Then, Schumer described Evans as a man of “infinite jest,” detailing his penchant for pranks and dad jokes.
“To know Billy Evans was to know, to borrow from Shakespeare, a fellow of infinite jest,” Schumer said. “His childhood friends will tell you that Billy capitalized literally on every opportunity for a joke.”
Schumer also detailed Evan’s commitment to helping others.
“And on an unseasonably cold day in early April, that innate impulse to ask ‘how can I help’ had Billy running towards danger, a reflex as natural and as automatic as breath to put the safety and happiness of others before his own,” Schumer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also spoke, praising Evans as an American hero being honored with his coffin on the same catafalque, or wooden stand, that held the coffin of former president Abraham Lincoln.
“I hope it is a comfort to Logan and Abigail, I see they have their cozies with them there, but I hope that is also a comfort to them that their father, an American hero, is lying where Abraham Lincoln lay on a catafalque built for Abraham Lincoln,” Pelosi said.
Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also praised Evans, saying he was a “friend and favorite of many here on the Senate side” during a floor speech.
“Officer Evans was famous within the Senate for his friendly spirit and easy manner. His particular post often meant he was literally the first line of defense of the Congress, the interface between these grounds and the outside world. We could not have had a kinder, more likable ambassador at this junction or a more faithful protector to keep us safe,” McConnell said. “It will be with tremendous grief but tremendous gratitude that we will walk Officer Evans through the Capitol for the final time tomorrow where he will lie in honor in the rotunda.”
Evan’s family released a statement last week saying that the death “left a gaping void in our lives that will never be filled.”
“The absolute most important thing in his life were his two children, Logan and Abigail,” the statement says. “His most cherished moments were those spent with them – building with Lego, having light saber duels, playing boardgames, doing arts and crafts and recently finishing the Harry Potter series. He was always so eager to show how proud he was of everything they did. Any opportunity to spend time with his children brightened both their lives and his. Their dad was their hero long before the tragic events of last week.”
His family recounted his warmth, and how “funny and caring” he was, and said that he “relished bringing people together.”
Evan’s family, including his children, Logan and Abigail, their mother, Shannon, and Evan’s mother, Janice, were in attendance on Tuesday. Evan’s daughter held a stuffed animal throughout the service, while Logan wore a police cap at times throughout the ceremony. The U.S. Army Chorus Quartet sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to end the ceremony.
“We’re all shocked by the senselessness of this loss. To his sister Julie, his mother Janice, who was able to speak with last week, to Shannon, my heart breaks for you, it does. To Billy’s beloved children, Logan, Abigail, I want you to know that we are forever indebted to your dad,” Schumer said. “We will remember his sacrifice and your sacrifice, forever.”
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