By ROBIN FITZGERALD
Quiet sobs blended with words of comfort and praise, a bugler's sounding of taps and a 21-gun salute at the funeral of fallen Wiggins police officer Edward Odell Fite.Hundreds of mourners, including 150 law enforcement officers, attended services Wednesday for the 48-year-old Fite, one of two Wiggins policemen gunned down Sunday night in Wiggins. Fite and Brandon Breland, 23, were less than a mile from their station, responding to a domestic disturbance call.
Fite was buried in the Dixie community near Hattiesburg. Funeral services for Breland will be at 10 a.m. today at Vardaman Street Baptist Church in Wiggins.
Stone County Assistant District Attorney Chris Schmidt said prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the capital murder charges against Ronald Husband, 46, who was arrested without incident in the Maxie community two hours after the shooting.
Officers said Fite, with 24 years of experience, was a family-oriented "people person" who enjoyed helping others.
"He had a joyful personality," said New Augusta Police Chief Curtis R. Gates, named chief after Fite left that post and returned to the Wiggins police force in 2003.
Fite took one last ride downtown Wednesday. A motorcade of about 70 police vehicles with blue flashing lights led his funeral procession through downtown Wiggins, where residents lined the streets, some clutching American flags, many in tears. The units moved slowly up U.S. 49 to Dixie Baptist Church, where officers from 12 counties, including a unit from Chattanooga, Tenn., stood at attention along the church walls while other officers stood outside.
Fite, wearing his dark-blue police uniform with badge number 13, lay in a slate blue coffin adorned with gold crosses. Floral arrangements with matching ribbons indicated flowers given by fellow police officers, deputies and the World Wrestling Federation. Fite was a WWF fan and "fill-in" wrestler.
The grief of his family is as deep as the pain of his fellow officers, said the Rev. Bobby L. Holder.
"They (the family) have been helped by your hurt," he told the officers.
Holder and the Rev. Barry Armstrong, of New Augusta, praised Fite for his moral character and his willingness to help others.
He was known to stop and buy a cold drink for a thirsty suspect heading for jail.
One of the most profound accolades came from inmates at the Stone County jail. They pooled their cigarette and candy money to buy a potted plant for Fite's family and wrote a poem that told of how Fite "went out of his way to speak, and treat us as he asked to be treated."
Rows of officers at the gravesite gave solemn salutes as Jackson police officers lifted the American flag that draped Fite's coffin while Biloxi police officers, at the command, "ready, aim, fire," saluted by gunfire.
Wiggins Police Chief Buddy Bell wept along with Fite's widow, Kay, as he handed her the folded flag.
Biloxi Sun Herald (http://www.sunherald.com/)