"Behold the sea of blue and the stars shining on every chest," Vallejo police Officer Alan Caragan said as he looked at the crowd of more than 4,000 people who showed up at a memorial service at Vallejo High School's Corbus Field today to honor slain officer James Capoot.
Capoot, 45, was fatally shot while chasing a suspected bank robber on Nov. 17. He was a 19-year veteran of the Vallejo Police Department and left behind a wife and three daughters.
The Arkansas native was remembered as a police officer, U.S. Marine, proud father of three girls, loving husband, Dallas Cowboys fan and coach of Vallejo High School's Apache girls' basketball team.
His daughter Jamie said her father had a heart of gold.
"He was my best friend. It was an honor to be his daughter," she said. "Dad, I'll forever have your back now. Rest in peace. Semper fi,
devil dog. Oo-rah!" she said.
Family friend TJ O'Connor said Capoot was "the epitome of a Marine," and that later, as a police officer, Capoot "knew how to separate the hard cop from the beautiful person inside."
Members of the Apache basketball team tearfully remembered Capoot as a mentor and father figure who told them they could achieve anything they aspired to in life.
"Basketball was the only reason I continued school," player Allessandra Jefferson said.
Capoot was a sound decision-maker and tactical thinker, Vallejo police Chief Robert Nichelini said.
"You could tell he was a Marine," Nichelini said. "He was a 'yes sir, no sir, no excuses sir' kind of guy."
Pastor Robert Lee, a retired Vallejo police sergeant, recalled the time Capoot had to tow a woman's car during the holiday season. He said Capoot felt bad about it and brought the woman's family gifts on Christmas.
"He didn't want accolades," Lee said.
Family friend Kelly Roberts said Capoot was "a big-hearted, humble man with a lot of plans."
"He was always daring people to do something crazy," Roberts said.
"He was a true American hero," family friend Kristine Kennedy said. "His excitement for everything was contagious."
Gov. Jerry Brown was among those in attendance at the two-and-a-half-hour tribute, which concluded with a 21-gun salute by Marine Corps members and a helicopter flyover. One of the helicopters broke away from the three others in formation, circled back to the field, then flew overhead slowly.
Afterward, some members of the crowd headed to a reception held at the Solano County Fairgrounds.
Shortly after Capoot was killed, police arrested Fairfield resident Henry Albert Smith Jr., 37, for the shooting. Smith pleaded not guilty to murder charges Tuesday.
A trust fund has been established for Capoot's family at Bank of the West in Vallejo. Donations can be made out to the Officer James Capoot Family Trust and mailed to the Vallejo Police Officers' Association, care of Sgt. Mark Nichol, P.O. Box 4218, Vallejo, CA, 94590.
Those seeking more information about how to donate can call (707) 644-3913.
--- Bay City News Services