THREE FORKS — The youngest Montana Highway Patrol officer ever killed in the line of duty fought to the end as a warrior in a shootout on a rural road, the patrol's chaplain told the officer's grieving family and thousands who attended the funeral Tuesday.
Trooper David DeLaittre, 23, died last Wednesday during a traffic stop outside his hometown of Three Forks. He had stopped to investigate an idling truck in the middle of the roadway.
The driver of the truck shot him in the head and torso with a shotgun, authorities said. DeLaittre returned fire and wounded the gunman, Errol Brent Bouldin, authorities said.
'... he fought like a warrior.'
"To the end, he had his gun, his magazines, and no one took them from him," chaplain Warren Hiebert said during the service. "Multiple rounds fired, he fought as a warrior with tenacity and bravery."
Bouldin, 56, drove about 35 miles north into neighboring Broadwater County and shot himself to death. Police found the body after a manhunt involving more than 100 law enforcement officers.
There were no survivors or witnesses to the shooting, so it is not clear what happened just prior to the exchange of gunfire.
Attendees from around the nation
More than 2,000 people packed Three Forks High School for the funeral service, including hundreds of law enforcement officers from as far away as Alaska, Florida and Arizona.
The two-hour ceremony was filled with friends and teachers who painted DeLaittre as an accomplished craftsman with a sense of humor and a mischievous side, but who above all was loyal and always looking for a challenge.
DeLaittre was a fifth-generation law enforcement officer whose father also was a Montana trooper. It was his lifelong dream to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Dennis DeLaittre, who pinned the badge on his son after he graduated from the patrol's academy in 2008.
Dennis DeLaittre read aloud a letter in which he thanked his son for the 23 years they had spent together with his mother, Nancy.
"David, I knew I was expecting you to take care of your mom and sisters. But we don't always get what we want," he said.
Family holds back tears
One of David DeLaittre's three sisters, Jennifer Amundsen, read her brother's obituary, pausing to choke back tears.
"David was kind, caring, generous and always offered whatever was needed," she said.
Dennis DeLaittre said his son was very observant and it seemed there was no problem or mechanical feat he couldn't figure out. Even at a young age, he knew every tool in the box and every make and model of vehicle on the road.
At 8, he even had his first vehicle accident, getting the keys to his dad's truck and crashing while backing it up. Even at that age, David was able to pin it back on his father with a quick wit.
"He told me I should have taught him to back up correctly," Dennis DeLaittre said.
Before the ceremony, a funeral procession was held for DeLaittre through the freezing fog in southwestern Montana, near the place where he was shot and into town where American flags lined the way. Inside, a slideshow of photos from DeLaittre's childhood flashed on screens as people crammed inside the high school gymnasium.
Those who were turned away could watch video of the service in another assembly room.
Hiebert pointed out the crowd in speaking to the family.
"Just look around, and in the other rooms and in the hallways. Love is being expressed to you and your son David," the chaplain said. "We are overwhelmed by the support of so many who loved this family."
Seven other Montana troopers have died in the line of duty.