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CHICAGO -- The police officers stood in dress wool uniforms in stifling heat and held their formation under threat of drenching rain.
As a measure of the dedication to a police officer who died in the line of duty, the governor of Illinois and mayor of Chicago also waited in the heat as the measured pageantry of an official funeral unfolded Monday.
On a day in which police officers were praised by their chaplain for being the "barbed wire between the sheep and the wolves," a department and a city honored slain Officer Richard Francis, 60, with pipes and drums, rifle salutes and an escort of mounted officers.
As a police honor guard lifted the casket with solemn pauses and crisp movements, neighbors lined the street and watched from front porches until the Northwest Side street around St. Monica Catholic Church, 5136 N. Nottingham Ave., looked like a somber reviewing stand.
"We often take our police officers for granted until something like this happens," Mayor Richard Daley said, his voice carried onto the street by loudspeakers outside the church. "His death is a sad reminder of the gratitude we owe the men and women of the Chicago Police Department."
Eight officers carried the polished wooden casket, the hush as they moved broken only by clipped commands, the precise clicks of their heels and sniffles from Francis' family.
"People get up and they say, 'He gave his life in the line of duty,'" police chaplain Rev. Thomas Nangle said during the funeral mass. "He didn't. It was taken."
Early Wednesday, Francis was on a seemingly routine assignment, patrolling alone, when he was shot and killed in a struggle with a woman who had caused a disturbance with a CTA bus passenger less than a block from the Belmont District police station where Francis worked, officials have said.
Also wounded in the scuffle, Robin Johnson was charged with first-degree murder of a police officer, four counts of attempted murder of an officer and disarming an officer. Johnson, 45, who was ordered held without bail, remained in critical condition at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said.
The slaying came as Francis neared retirement and cast a spotlight on the dedication he brought to 27 years as a beat cop.
At the mass, Daley noted the 35 commendations Francis received. Supt. Jody Weis praised the fallen officer as "a wagon man" who drove a squadrol wagon to help quell bar fights, riots and other late-night disturbances.
"He would always answer, no matter what the call was," Weis told some 300 people seated epaulet-to-epaulet inside the church -- and hundreds more outside -- as he tied Francis' devotion to the risks all officers take on.
In a voice that rose and fell with emotion, Nangle remembered Francis in a homily that invoked a gratified "God of justice" and envisioned Francis arriving in heaven to discover that "the angels and saints themselves bowed out of respect for the man he was."
Francis served on a Navy patrol boat during the Vietnam War and later worked as a building engineer at the Union League Club downtown. He joined the police force in his 30s and worked patrol in the Monroe and Near North Districts -- "tough districts," Weis said -- before working the Belmont District for almost eight years.
A longtime bachelor, Francis married his wife, Debbie, nearly a decade ago, his stepdaughter Amanda Kmic told mourners. He asked for the night shift so he could spend days with Debbie's other daughter, Bianca, who has special needs.
He took awkwardly but enthusiastically to family life and traded his motorcycle for a minivan, said Kmic, 23, who described meeting him when she was a girl and said that he seemed like an interloper.
"My initial thought was, um, I hated him. ... I gave him the hardest time, kind of like an initiation. As you can see, he was a tough guy, and he passed," Kmic said in a eulogy that evoked laughter and tears. "I expected the worst, but I got the best.
"He was the best damn police officer I ever knew," Kmic added, pausing to fight tears as she recalled his death. He would want people to celebrate life, she concluded quickly, and quoted one of his trademark phrases:
"'Isn't life great?'" she said.
Outside, at least 500 officers lined up in the parking lot as the services came to a close about 1:30 p.m. Assembled again, the green-kilted Emerald Society pipe band played a patriotic medley. A pair of buglers playing taps followed them, and then came three rifle volleys so sudden they startled the horses lined up near the waiting gray hearse.
Under the church portico, the honor guard folded an American flag and then a Chicago flag from atop Francis' casket. Gov. Rod Blagojevich and then Daley delivered them to his widow, the mayor carefully stacking the two. After a moment, he pushed both toward the woman softly and leaned forward to whisper condolences.
Across the street, neighbors and other supporters stood three-deep to watch as the procession moved off. Several took photographs with digital cameras and cell phones. A handful of officers stood with their families among the neighbors, and when ordered to salute, kept one hand on their children's shoulders or around their waists and raised the other to their brows.
When asked to express their thoughts on the ceremony, many in uniforms said they didn't know how.
"I'm not sure how I could even explain it," said Robert Cribben, a Chicago firefighter since 1988. After a moment, he had an answer.
"Respect," he said.