RENO, Nev. (AP) - Nevada's first woman law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty was remembered Wednesday as a devoted wife and loving mother as well as a "cop's cop" with a "tempered toughness" who was fearless in her job.
Hundreds of uniformed officers from across Nevada and the West were among more than 3,000 people who attended a memorial service
for Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Kara Kelly-Borgognone after a caravan of law enforcement vehicles stretching for miles escorted the hearse to an arena on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.
The 33-year-old mother of two was critically injured Feb. 25 when her patrol car was slammed by another vehicle while responding to a call. An organ donor, she was kept on life support until her organs could be donated and was pronounced dead three days later.
"Kara was thoughtful, caring, compassionate, loyal, strong and steadfast, humble and ever giving until her last moments," said Chris Kelly, her brother and fellow state trooper who called her his hero.
"Not many brothers get to work with their sisters, especially in law enforcement," Kelly said, recalling how proud he was when she first transferred to the state patrol and numerous colleagues told him "your sister can back me anytime."
Trooper Dave Kester, a friend who often worked the graveyard shift with Kelly-Borgognone, said she was fair, honest, dependable and passionate about her work.
"Kara embodied the word spirit," Kester said. "She was fiery and able to strike down egos with a single bound. You were forced to lower your manly exterior because you knew deep down she could probably take you to task."
Officers from California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Illinois, Las Vegas and nearly every Nevada county attended the service, most with black ribbons across their badges. Gov. Jim Gibbons and his wife, Dawn, also were present.
A videotape with family photos played during the service included a quotation from one of her daughters: "Keep getting the bad guys, mommy."
Kelly-Borgognone was responding to assist in a bomb scare around 10 p.m. north of Sparks when a Chevrolet sport utility vehicle crashed into the driver's side door of her Ford Crown Victoria patrol car. The driver of the other vehicle suffered only minor injuries. The accident remains under investigation.
The daughter of a Navy chief who was born while her parents were
stationed at Naval Air Station Fallon, she attended Missouri's Columbia College on a softball scholarship and worked eight years as a probation and parole officer before joining the state patrol in 2006.
She earned the Silver Medal of Valor and her supervising sergeant had just submitted her name for an award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving because of the number of DUI offenders she took off the streets.
In 2006, while working as a probation officer, Kelly-Borgognone shot and killed a parolee after he tested positive for methamphetamine and tried to take her gun away. Christopher Michael Tallman, 25, managed to get Kelly-Borgognone's gun out of her holster but she wrestled it back and shot him in the head and chest.
"She was fearless in her job," Col. Chris Perry, chief of the Nevada Highway Patrol, said Wednesday.
"Tough, fair, no-nonsense, she was always in control," he said, adding that she also had a "soft side" when she talked about family adventures and how much she "just loved being a mom" to daughters Blair, 13, and Ashlyn, 3.
"I can't think of a better role model in a world where role modes are becoming increasingly scarce," Perry said.
Patrol Maj. Brian Sanchez said she had a "tempered toughness" that all law officers strive for.
"Kara was a cop's cop," he said.
Her widower, Dirk Borgognone, carried Ashlyn to place a red rose on the flag-draped casket in the Lawlor Events Center before addressing the crowd. His voice cracked often as he cried. But he also drew a laugh when he said it was love at first sight when they met but then couldn't reach her again on the phone and feared she "gave me a bogus telephone number."
"What we had was special. We weren't perfect but we were perfect for each other," Borgognone said.
"I remember your last words to me - `Bye lover, see you tomorrow night,"' he said. "You are a hero. Goodbye lover."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)