CHICAGO -- The mournful drone from a lone bagpiper drifted skyward as Chicago Police Detective Robert Soto's steel-blue casket was eased gently into a hearse Tuesday afternoon.
A mourner gasped and covered her mouth. A little boy's eyes widened as he looked up and studied her face. The Chicago Police Honor Guard -- white gloved and robot-precise -- stood statue still.
A few minutes earlier, dozens of family, friends and colleagues filled the cavernous space of St. Francis of Assisi Church to remember a slain policeman who, in life, rarely relished ceremony.
When Soto got an award or medal during his 23 years as a Chicago police officer, he didn't display it for all to see.
"He would simply put it away in a drawer," family spokesman Robert Galvan told mourners Tuesday.
When asked why he did this, Soto would say: "This is not why I do what I do."
Soto was buried one day after 26-year-old Jason Austin was charged with murdering Soto and his female companion, Kathryn Romberg, during an alleged robbery Aug. 13. Prosecutors say Austin could face the death penalty if convicted.
Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis told reporters that tireless, "phenomenal" police work led to Austin's arrest. Prosecutors say Soto was shot twice, including once in the head, but he survived long enough to give police a detailed description of the shooter's car.
Kenneth Watt, a retired Chicago police officer who knew Soto and attended his funeral, didn't want that fact forgotten.
"Did they get the bad guy? Was [Soto's] information good? Then he died a policeman," Watt said outside the church Tuesday.
Soto was remembered as a family man who could find humor in almost any situation.
"He had a loud, unique laugh that made everyone laugh along with him," Galvan said during the service.
Soto took an enormous amount of pride in his yard and swimming pool and would often invite neighbors over to see a new project, friends say. And he loved to have Hawaiian-themed parties in his backyard, Galvan said Tuesday.
"His family always came first," Galvan said. "Bobby was the glue that bonded us together."
Mayor Daley was absent from Soto's funeral, and he was somewhat defensive when asked why Tuesday. "He was not killed in the line of duty," Daley said.
Last year, Daley spoke at the funeral of 34-year-old Chicago Police Officer Jose Vazquez, another off-duty officer who was gunned down in an apparent armed robbery behind his home.
On Tuesday, Daley was asked why he had attended the funeral of one murdered off-duty officer and not another.
"The [Vazquez] family personally asked me to attend," Daley said. "You know that. They personally asked me to attend."
Weis told reporters Tuesday tha the focus should be on Soto and not the particulars of his funeral.
"There's no way officer Soto lost his life in vain," Weis said. "It makes the officers want to work even harder to make sure that the city is safe and that the citizens are protected."