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MARTINEZ, Calif. -- While hundreds of law enforcement officers stood in salute, pallbearers carried the flag-draped coffin of a Martinez police sergeant onto the stage of a Concord amphitheater Thursday. A police hat sat on top.
The hat belonged to Paul Starzyk, who was honored in a two-hour service that recalled his life and paid tribute to the way it ended - in a gunfight with a man who had already killed a woman.
The 47-year-old officer "held that line," said Martinez Police Chief Tom Simonetti, addressing more than 2,000 mourners at the Sleep Train Pavilion, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Jerry Brown. "And he refused to allow evil to cross over it."
Simonetti turned toward Starzyk's wife, Shannon Starzyk, a Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy, and the couple's three children - Vincent, 6, Jacob, 4, and 20-month-old Jessica. He told the children that their father was a hero whose "star will always shine down to watch over you."
Simonetti then stepped off the stage and embraced Shannon Starzyk in the front row. For a few seconds, her wails filled the quiet amphitheater.
Paul Starzyk was one of the first two officers who responded Saturday to a Martinez salon where gunman Felix Sandoval had gone at 11:35 a.m. to find his estranged wife, owner of the business. Sandoval instead found three women and three young children in a nearby apartment.
There, Sandoval killed his wife's 44-year-old cousin, Catalina Torres, before shooting Starzyk in the chest as he prepared to charge into the second-floor unit with a fellow officer. Though he was mortally wounded, Starzyk returned fire with his rifle, police said, and killed Sandoval.
The Rev. Robert Rien of St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Antioch, told mourners Thursday that it was appropriate for Starzyk to be honored on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, when police officers and firefighters rushed into the World Trade Center to save those inside.
"So too did Paul Starzyk rush into a darkened stairwell," Rien said, adding that the sergeant "gave his life so that others may live."
A Chicago native and former banker who joined the Martinez force 12 years ago, Starzyk was remembered as a loyal friend with an offbeat sense of humor. He held himself and others to a high standard, said his friend Adrian Smedley.
"Paul Starzyk led from the front," Smedley said in one of two eulogies. "I can still hear his voice now: 'Keep your head up and your back straight.' "
Another friend, Joe Kalodimos, said Starzyk had been dedicated to bettering himself. The sergeant once led Martinez's SWAT team and taught other officers how to shoot and how to react in situations that involve a gunman.
"I'm certain that when he went into that hallway, he did the right things," Kalodimos said.
As country music played, a slide show of pictures projected from big screens - Starzyk at his wedding, with colleagues, with his kids.
On a grassy area ringing the amphitheater, police officers were on horseback or stood at attention with German shepherds. Seven officers completed a 21-gun salute, firing into the air three times. A pair of buglers played taps.
A California Highway Patrol honor guard presented two flags to Simonetti, who gave them to Starzyk's wife and parents. The pallbearers then carried Starzyk's coffin to a hearse as bagpipers played "Amazing Grace."
The fallen officer was escorted in a long procession of vehicles to Brentwood, where family members and colleagues gathered for a private reception.
Funerals and funds for victims A service will be held for Catalina Torres at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Martinez, 1125 Ferry St., at 2 p.m. today. To donate to a scholarship fund honoring Torres at Diablo Valley College, where she tutored math students, call 925 685-1405. Send checks to the Diablo Valley College Foundation, 321 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. The memo line of the check should read, "Catalina Torres Scholarship Fund."To donate to a memorial fund benefiting Paul Starzyk's wife and their three young children, call 925 228-7550, ext. 855. Checks can be sent to Contra Costa Federal Credit Union, 1111 Pine St., Martinez, CA 94553. The account is the Starzyk Family Memorial Fund, Account No. 57950-00.