Visitation held for APD officer killed in helicopter crash - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Visitation held for APD officer killed in helicopter crash

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Family and friends gathered on Thursday to say their goodbyes to an Atlanta Police Officer Richard Halford on Thursday, November 8, 2012 (Photo by Kaitlyn Pratt/myfoxatlanta) Family and friends gathered on Thursday to say their goodbyes to an Atlanta Police Officer Richard Halford on Thursday, November 8, 2012 (Photo by Kaitlyn Pratt/myfoxatlanta)
ATLANTA -

Family and friends gathered on Thursday to say their goodbyes to an Atlanta police officer who was killed this weekend. Officers Richard Halford and Shawn Smiley died Saturday night when their helicopter crashed in southwest Atlanta.

Visitation services were held on Thursday for Officer Halford at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church.

Halford and Smiley were the first APD officers killed in a helicopter crash. They were searching for a missing 9-year-old boy when the chopper hit a pole and crashed in northwest Atlanta.

Halford, 48, was the department's most experienced pilot. He was assigned to the air unit for 16 years and served with the department for 26 years.

"He was one of the best pilots that they ever had and probably ever will have," said Glenn Ross, a former colleague.

Friends say Halford commanded respect  and admiration.

"I've known him for 20 years or so. Outstanding gentleman. Role model, said Calvin McDonald.

Halford loved his job and touched many professionally and personally over his 26-year career, according to his friends.

 "He gave me my first pilot's book…so from that point on, I became a pilot because I wanted to emulate, I wanted to be like him," said Mark Veazey.

The officer's sacrifice brought strangers to pay tribute Thursday night.

"My heart immediately started to moan because that could have been one of my grandchildren that left and they put their lives on the line for him," said Priscilla Peters.

Colleagues said they would always remember Halford.

"I'm going to take a part of him with me. He's going to be with me in that helicopter. I know he's an angel looking down from heaven. That's a blessing, knowing that I've got a friend that's an angel," said Veazey.

His funeral will be held Friday at the same church at 11 a.m.

The family of Officer Smiley will receive visitors on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Levett and Sons Funeral Home. His funeral will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Atlanta on North Peachtree Road.

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