The funeral was Donna Watson’s chance to say a final goodbye to her son Troy, who had died suddenly at 31.
But now Watson says that somber memory will include another image: armed police interrupting the service to arrest her son’s best friend.
“I will never have an opportunity for a do-over on my son’s funeral — never,” Watson wrote in a Facebook post Saturday, after Hopewell, Virginia, police arrested Rodney Peace at her son Troy Howlett’s funeral.
“There were at least 12 officers there. They completely surrounded the funeral home,” Watson told WWBT. “It was an officer at every door. The ones that came on the inside had the big tactical vests, standing there.”
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Police say Peace had evaded arrest since October of 2017, was wanted for felony credit card fraud and needed to be served a preliminary protective order for family abuse, police told the Hopewell Herald–Prince George Post.
Hopewell police Lt. Paul Intravia told the paper the situation was “unfortunate” but that “officers responded to the location because of reports Peace would be there at that time. We had been looking for him for some time and he has avoided arrest since October last year.”
On Facebook, Watson described what she said happened at the funeral.
“They arrived, in tactical gear, and removed my child’s best friend during the actual service and took him out. There was standing room only in the chapel, so you can imagine the scene. After being taken outside the chapel, my son’s best friend begged the officers to please let him go back in because this was, and always had been his best friend. They handcuffed him, and let him sit outside the chapel doors to listen to the service,” she wrote.
Peace was supposed to give remarks at the funeral but was not able to, WWBT reported. Police let him stay for the service before taking him to jail, according to the station.
Intravia also said there was another side to the story.
“We have a victim that’s involved in this as well and their rights are just as important as his right to say goodbye to his friend,” Intravia told WTVR. “They actually showed a lot of compassion with him in doing so when they did not have to at all. They could have simply escorted him out when they first made contact and brought him directly to jail.”
Police told WWBT they conducted the arrest inside the funeral home “calmly and quietly.”
On Facebook, Watson called the incident “inconsiderate” and “heartless” and wanted to know why the arrest couldn’t have waited until the end of the funeral. “This is beyond outrageous,” she wrote.
The news sparked debate on social media, with some saying the police were inconsiderate and others saying they did the right thing.