By Moises Mendoza
The Houston Chronicle
The crowd of 1,000 mourners -- Eydelmen Mani's family, friends and fellow police officers -- quietly filed into the Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church on Saturday.
They stood at attention as his casket was carried into the church sanctuary, next to a picture of Mani when he graduated from Houston's police academy about seven years ago.
Then they began to remember the 30-year-old Houston police officer who died after an on-duty car crash on a feeder lane of Interstate 45 as he sped to join fellow officers chasing a suspected car thief last week.
He was quiet but firm. He was respected by fellow officers and loved his job patrolling the city's north side. He loved his wife and 3-year-old son.
"He lived his life as one of our heroes. He left this life fighting to stay with us," said Monty B. Montgomery, the Police Department's chaplain.
Saturday's funeral service was packed with emotion. Dignitaries included Mayor Annise Parker, state representatives and police officers from around the state, who drove to Houston to remember Mani.
Parts of the service were conducted in Spanish because Mani had extended family from Mexico, where he was born.
But, whatever the language, the message remained consistent: The officer died doing what he loved.
"That was serving the public and his fellow man," said the Rev. Miguel A. Solorzano.
After the service, a funeral procession drove to Hollywood Cemetery on the city's north side for Mani's burial.
There, officers stood at attention as a squadron of helicopters streaked overhead. A 21-gun salute honored Mani and his badge number - 7492 - was formally retired.
Then it was time to remove the flag from Mani's casket. Police Chief Charles McClelland said a few quiet words as he handed it to Mani's family.
Afterward, a few friends, relatives and officers lingered.
One wiped his eyes as he kneeled on the ground.
Assistant Chief John Trevino closed with a few words about the service.
"We come together as a family," Trevino said. "We'll always remember Officer Mani."
Copyright 2010 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company