A sea of uniformed officers flooded Woodstream Church Tuesday morning, Aug. 28, to honor and mourn Laurel resident and fallen Prince George's County Police Officer 1st Class Adrian Morris.
Morris, 23, was promoted posthumously to the rank of officer 1st class after he was killed last week when his police cruiser ran off Interstate 95 in Beltsville during a police chase following an armed robbery attempt at a West Laurel Shell station.
A lengthy police escort made up of officers from county, state and national police departments accompanied the hearse carrying Morris' flag-draped casket to the Mitchelsville church, where it was met by thousands of uniformed emergency service members.
"Adrian made a lasting impression on his co-workers and the community," Prince George's County Police Chief Mark McGaw said during the service. "The Prince George's County Police Department was a better department because of Adrian ... His loss leaves a tremendous void."
McGaw was one of many distinguished officials to provide reflections on Morris' life Tuesday. Others who spoke at the funeral includedCounty Executive Rushern Baker III, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, FOP 89 President Vince Canales and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer.
McGaw said Morris, who was assigned to the District 6 station in Beltsville, was defined by his enthusiasm and commitment to serving.
"It was evident to anyone who knew Adrian that he had a passion for policing," McGaw said.
Before becoming a police officer, Morris was a member of the Police Explorers at District 6 for five years. He continued as an advisor and mentor to the Boy Scout-affiliated group after joining the force.
Officer Michael Owens and Officer 1st Class Kenneth Hibbert, who were stationed with Morris at District 6, also eulogized him during the service.
Both Owens and an emotional Hibbert, who met Morris when the two were together in the Police Explorers program, shared stories from Morris' life and presented Morris' mother, fiancee and other family members with Police Explorer badges with Morris' name on them.
"Adrian Morris was more than a police officer," Hibbert said holding back tears. "He was my friend, he was my brother, and I loved him."
Baker likened Morris to a bright star whose memory will illuminate the lives of county residents for years to come.
"Loss is never easy," Baker said. "But the loss of someone so young is devastating."
Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said the commitment and sacrifice provided Morris and all service members is something all citizens should never forget.
"These fine men and women leave their homes, not knowing if they'll return, to make the community a better place," Brown said. "Our community is a better place because of Officer Morris. ... He lived his life believing he had a responsibility to us; it is now our responsibility to honor him. Adrian, you'll never be forgotten."
Fearless, 'highly motivated'
While Morris may have been small in stature — standing just over 5 feet tall — those that knew him said he more than made up for any physical shortcomings in courage and motivation.
In fact, Morris' fearless reputation earned him the nickname "Baby Hercules" from his fellow officers at the District 6 station.
"There was no fear in him," District 6 station NCO Bruce Jasper said Monday, Aug. 27, outside Borgwardt Funeral Home, in Beltsville, where a wake for Morris was held.. "He was a good officer, who was highly motivated. (Being a police officer) is something he always wanted to do."
Standing in front of the funeral home Monday, Prince George's County Assistant Chief of Police Kevin Davis spoke about Morris — who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and became a U.S. citizen in 2009 — and his remarkable story, and said Morris' dedication and commitment to serving defined him.
"You couldn't write a script that could depict a young person so dedicated to public service if you tried," Davis said. "For Officer Morris it was a calling ... it was in his heart, it was in everything he did as a young person. He fulfilled that dream, and his life was cut short."
Linda Oliver, acting president of the Police Civilian Employees Association, was involved with hiring Morris. She spoke of his desire to become a police officer.
"This is it. This is what he wanted to do," Oliver said. "It's such a loss."
Oliver added that Morris was very family-oriented, and said it's important that the community supports his family through this tragic time.
Kaushal Patel, owner of Tubby's Diner and Liquors in West Laurel, collected and donated food and soft drinks for the repast being held at Fraternal Order of Police Lodge in Upper Marlboro following funeral services for Morris.
Patel said he was approached by a friend who also knew Morris and who asked if he would lend the family a helping hand.
"He told me how great he was and asked me if I would help the family out," Patel said. "He said the family was having some difficulty, and without him, it's going to be very difficult."
Police have set up a memorial fund to assist Morris' family. Checks made payable to "FOP 89," with "Officer Adrian Morris Fund" on the memo line, can be mailed to: Officer Adrian Morris Fund, c/o PGPD District VI, 4321 Sellman Road, Beltsville, MD 20705.