A candlelight vigil Wednesday night honored the life and legacy of fallen Fort Worth officer Garrett Hull, a 17-year veteran of the Fort Worth Police Department, who died Friday of a gunshot wound to the head, suffered hours earlier during a gun battle with a group of robbery suspects.
A huge crowd of family, friends and fellow officers came together for the 7:30 vigil at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex in Fort Worth.
Manuel Ramirez, President of the Fort Worth Police Officer's Association rememberd his friend by the name reserved only for the very best, "natural police."
"He was the man that everybody wanted as his backup, that every citizen was lucky if he showed up on their call," Det. Ramirez said.
For 17 years, Officer Hull devoted himself to answering the call. But friends say his deepest commitment was always to his family, a wife and two daughters.
"Garrett gave his life for this city, but he lived his life for his family," said Ramirez.
Chief Joel Fitzgerald called on the city to honor Officer Hull's sacrifice with unity.
"Don't make Garrett's sacrifice anything less than a commitment to this Department and this family to be better," said Chief Fitzgerald. "Garrett Hull is forever emblazoned in my heart and my soul and I expect every police officer to live up to the very high standard that he has put forth for us all."
Hull's body was transported Monday from the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office to the Greenwood Cemetery ahead of his funeral this Friday.
Hull's private funeral is planned for 1 p.m. Friday at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth. It is expected to be available to be watched online and on social media. Following the service, a procession will carry Hull to Greenwood Cemetery where he'll be laid to rest in a private, graveside ceremony for family.
People are expected to line the streets for the short drive from the church to the cemetery.
Hull, who was 40 years old, is survived by his wife and two daughters.
“We've lost a true hero,” said Chief Joel Fitzgerald of the Fort Worth Police Department, after pausing for a moment to collect himself at the outset of a news conference that began 20 minutes after midnight Saturday, and approximately 24 hours after the initial incident.
“Garrett was truly a hero. I’ve enjoyed hearing people who worked with him talk about him as a rock, about [being] the glue that held his unit together," Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said. “The sacrifices our officers make go unnoticed until we have a tragedy such as this. And the shock and the grief wake people up to the fact that many of our men and women serving don't go home.”
Hull spent two separate stints with the Fort Worth Police Department – from 1999 to 2009, and again from 2011 until his death.
Hull was undercover and among a group of police officers surveilling a suspected team of robbery suspects on the south side of Fort Worth Thursday night into the overnight hours of Friday morning.
The suspects reportedly entered Los Vaqueros Sports Bar, in the 400 block of W. Biddison Street around midnight.
Surveillance video from inside the bar shows the group of men burst into a patio area, weapons in hand and forced several customers to the floor.
"They bum-rushed the bar, told us to hit the floor. They had the guns out," said owner Victor Zepeda. "And as soon as they took off I heard gunfire. A lot of it."
Hull and the other officers attempted to arrest the suspects, who then reportedly opened fire on police.
According to Fitzgerald, the suspect who shot Hull, Dacion Steptoe, was killed during the exchange.
Two other suspects — Samuel Mayfield and Timothy Huff — were arrested and face charges that include attempted capital murder.
Fitzgerald also hailed as heroes some of the other officers who were with Hull, who loaded him into a squad car and raced him to John Peter Smith Hospital — a move he referred to as “grab and go” — to receive immediate medical care.
“I just can't describe the incredible amount of courage that went on,” Fitzgerald said. “Not only interrupting this robbery but being able to extricate Officer Hull from the environment where there's a shooting occurring.”
Fitzgerald noted that Hull was an organ donor, meaning that his commitment of service to others will not end with his death.
NBC 5's Scott Gordon contributed to this report.