GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — The community of Mount Holly, still grieving over the death of police officer Tyler Herndon, took a step forward Friday in the criminal case.
Herndon’s memorial service was held on Tuesday. Police said the 25-year-old officer was killed last week in an exchange of gunfire with Joshua Funk during a break-in at an arcade and car wash.
On Friday, Funk faced a judge for the first time.
Earlier this week, a grand jury indicted Funk with murder, which means his first appearance was made in Superior Court.
Funk entered the courtroom Friday in a wheelchair. Channel 9 was told Funk is still suffering from injuries he sustained in the shootout with police.
During Friday’s hearing, Funk asked for a court-appointed attorney. The state must now decide which attorney will represent Funk.
A grand jury decided that his case should go to trial once both sides are ready.
Several Mount Holly police officers, including Chief Don Roper, attended the court appearance. They are not talking about the hearing or the suspect. The chief said they are focused on the officer they lost.
“The best way for this to end is to remember Tyler Herndon,” Roper told Channel 9.
All of them sat with heavy hearts and badges covered in honor of Herndon.
“We are committed to making sure that Tyler Herndon is always remembered and that he had earned his spot in the history of the Mount Holly Police Department,” Roper said.
The chief said his officers are still grieving the loss of a member of their family gone too soon.
The city of Mount Holly is looking into a way to honor Herndon, possibly by naming a street or piece of public property after him.
Funk is being held in jail with no bond.
Mount Holly police officer killed responding to break-in call
Officer Tyler Herndon was killed following a shooting early Friday during a burglary call, authorities said.
According to Gaston Emergency Medical Services, the shooting happened around 3:30 a.m. at the Mount Holly Car Wash and Arcade on Beatty Drive, just north of Interstate 85.
GEMS officials said three people were injured and rushed to Caromont Medical Center.
Around 8 a.m., Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said on social media that the shooting happened after Mount Holly police officers confronted an armed suspect while responding to a breaking and entering call.
According to CMPD, during the encounter, several shots were fired between the suspect and several Mount Holly police officers, as well as a Gaston County police officer who also responded to the call.
A Mount Holly officer, later identified as 25-year-old Tyler Avery Herndon, was shot and taken to Caromont Medical Center with serious injuries. Just before 10:30 a.m., CMPD said that he had died.
On Monday, the suspect, Joshua Funk, was indicted for murder by a grand jury. He will face a judge on Friday in Superior Court.
The grand jury meets in secret so Channel 9 doesn’t know what they heard or saw that led them to indict Funk of murder, but a neighbor’s doorbell camera gives some insight into what those nearby experienced that morning.
Pamela Spencer’s doorbell camera captured the sound of the gunfire a block away. Jason Self also said he heard it from his apartment next door.
“Like 20 rounds, like bang, bang, bang,” Self said.
Spencer said she remembers Herndon working in the neighborhood, and she often saw him at a gas station nearby.
“Very friendly. Always talking to everybody. Always helping out,” Spencer said.
Herndon had just started working for the Mount Holly Police Department last year. His friends said he wanted to be a police officer to help people.
Herndon’s funeral was Tuesday. He was laid to rest with full honors.
‘He was just amazing’: Mount Holly police officer killed 2 days before 26th birthday
“Our family is just torn,” said Heather Campbell, Herndon’s cousin. “I mean, he had such a great future ahead of him.”
It was a senseless act of violence.
“Just to get the call that this has happened,” said Amanda Phillips, Herndon’s cousin. “It takes you a moment, like, what?”
Family members said Herndon had wanted to join the FBI.
“And he was almost there,” Campbell said. “He almost made it.”
Herndon had dreams for the future.
“We really expected, probably before too long, he would be proposing to his girlfriend and starting his own family,” Campbell said. “And that boy took it from him, and I’m so mad at him for that.”
There were tributes across the community following his death.
“He was just amazing,” Phillips said. “Just the kindest person that you would ever come into contact with.”
According to officials, Herndon had been an officer with the Mount Holly Police Department for less than two years.
He would have turned 26 on Sunday with his twin sister, according to Mount Holly police.
Flags at the police department were lowered to half-staff Friday morning.
“It’s just a terrible thing to come to such a small town and to lose an officer and to lose a loved one so close to the holidays,” resident Rhonda Dittrich said, who brought her two children to drop off breakfast for the department. “Anytime that happens, it’s terrible.”
All morning, Channel 9 crews could see people in the community coming to the Mount Holly police station to bring flowers, food and cards to show their support.
“These officers are our lifeline,” resident Joann Lanier said. “If we can’t help them in their time of need, who will? If we can all come together, then it proves there is hope.”
What do we know about the suspect?
Police said no other officers were injured in the incident.
The suspect was also shot, but only suffered a minor injury, police said. He was also taken to Caromont Medical Center, where he was treated and released before being transported to the Gaston County Jail, where he remains.
Channel 9 confirmed through the magistrate’s office that the suspect’s name is Joshua Tyler Funk.
Funk, 24, was booked on a charge of first-degree murder.
It was unclear who the third person hurt was or how they were injured.
Two other Mount Holly police officers and a Gaston County police officer were also involved in the shooting and the three have been placed on administrative leave to ensure their respective department policies and procedures were followed, which is standard procedure.
“Tyler Herndon is a great man”
Mount Holly Police Chief Don Roper addressed the public Friday afternoon, saying “We are hurting, our department is hurting, our family is hurting.”
“Tyler Herndon is a great man,” Roper said. “He is a hero, he served his community well. Our community is less because our community has lost him. He was a selfless man, wanted to do what he could to serve his community.”
Roper said this is the first time a Mount Holly police officer was killed in the line of duty.
“I hate it for the family,” said Eric McMillan, a former Mecklenburg County sheriff’s deputy. “I’m angry. This has just got to stop. This assault on our law enforcement officers has just got to stop.”
The incident could be heard unfolding early Friday morning on Gaston County Communications.
“Shots fired,” a dispatcher can be heard saying.
“Officer down, officer down -- got an officer shot,” a police officer responds.
“We’re responding emergency traffic. Where is the officer shot?” the dispatcher asks.
“Directly behind the building. Suspect is down,” the officer responds.
Channel 9′s Anthony Kustura was the first reporter to arrive at the scene and could see dozens of emergency vehicles lining the road. Beatty Drive was blocked for hours while police investigated.
Mount Holly police, Belmont police and Gaston County police all responded to the scene.
Shortly after noon, Chopper 9 Skyzoom was overhead as dozens of law enforcement vehicles assembled outside the Mecklenburg County medical examiner’s office before escorting the fallen officer’s body to a funeral home in Kings Mountain.
Law enforcement was asking the public to keep everyone involved in their thoughts and prayers.
Sen. Thom Tillis posted the following statement on Facebook:
“Susan and I send our deepest condolences to the Mount Holly Police Department and the family of Officer Tyler Herndon. This is a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers our men and women in blue face each day they go to work to protect our communities. Violent criminals who target law enforcement must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he spoke with Herndon’s parents and the Mount Holly police chief Friday afternoon to offer his support and prayers.
“Our prayers are with family and friends of Mount Holly Police Officer Tyler Herndon who was killed in the line of duty this morning protecting the community he loved. I spoke with Tyler’s parents and Chief Roper to offer our support and deepest condolences.”
Cooper ordered all North Carolina flags at state facilities to be lowered to half-staff beginning Saturday, Dec. 12 until sunset on Monday Dec. 14 in honor of Herndon.