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Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2006, 12:01 a.m.

More than 1,200 honor fallen Brier officer

EDMONDS More than 1,200 people paid their final respects to fallen Brier police officer Edwanton "Eddie" Thomas at a funeral service in Edmonds today.

Observing traditions sacred to police around the world, the funeral procession was led by a tartan-clad pipe and drum corps. A riderless horse was led in front of Thomas casket, his absence marked by a pair of riding boots turned backwards in the stirrups.

Thomass casket approached the memorial service at the Westgate Chapel by passing under the raised ladders of two fire trucks. An oversize American flag was draped from the ladders, and it waved softly in the steady drizzle.

Brier Mayor Bob Colinas spoke of the passion that Thomas brought to his work.

"Eddie brought a great deal of joy into the lives of others and was living a life-long dream," he said.

Brier Police Chief Don Lane said he will forever miss coming into the police department and hearing Thomas greeting, "Hey, boss."

Speaking directly to Thomas parents, the police chief said, "Your son is the type of person that we need in all of our police officers. For that, the Brier Police Department is forever in your debt."

The police chief fought tears as he told Thomas family that Brier was "so glad that he came to work for us and our small community and (we) are saddened that we no longer have Eddies talent, his energy, his enthusiasm."

Hundreds of police and firefighters joined in a processional from Edmonds to Brier and on to Lynnwood, for a graveside service.

The exact cause of Thomas Sept. 12 death continues to be shrouded in mystery.

He died after a struggle with Gary Starks, a former Brier mayor. Thomas went to Starks' house to help. Starks wife called 911 to report that her husband, a diabetic, needed medical treatment.

Starks had a history of being aggressive toward officers and aid workers during similar medical calls, according to court records.

Little is known about what happened inside the house.

There was evidence of a struggle. Thomas had requested backup. A short time later, he pushed the emergency distress button on his hand-held radio and broadcast that the man had a gun. He then told dispatchers he had the man in custody.

When a Mountlake Terrace officer arrived, he found Thomas and Starks lying atop a bed. Starks was in handcuffs. Thomas was not breathing.

Thomas was rushed to Stevens Hospital in Edmonds, where he was pronounced dead.

Starks, 55, was arrested for investigation of third-degree assault. Within hours, a judge ordered him released without imposing bail. No charges have been filed. Starks' lawyer and his pastor have both attributed the struggle with Thomas to the former mayor's severely low blood-sugar level.

It may be up to a month before the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office determines how Thomas died.

Thomas is the first Brier officer to die in the line of duty in department history.

He is survived by his girlfriend, Rita Kimborowicz and her two children, Joshuah and Madeline; parents, Diane A. and Eddie Lee Thomas; brother, Michael Thomas; two sisters, Michelle Allred and Kala K. Garnett; an extended family and a large group of friends.

Colinas told the crowd that they should remember Thomas.

"I say with a very full heart he rose to the challenge," Colinas said. "You leave each of us with a very large example to follow in the future. We thank you, young and valiant officer, co-worker and friend. Farewell, until we meet again."

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