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Hundreds attend funeral of Atlanta police chopper pilot

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Officer Richard Halford and Officer Shawn Smiley Officer Richard Halford and Officer Shawn Smiley

Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across metro Atlanta are attending the funeral Friday for fallen police helicopter pilot Officer Richard J. Halford.

Halford and Officer Shawn A. Smiley died Saturday night when the helicopter they were in crashed on a northwest Atlanta street.

Halford's funeral is set for 11 a.m. on Friday at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church.

CBS Atlanta News is streaming the procession and the funeral. Click here to watch live.

Hundreds attended the visitation on Thursday, paying their respects to an officer who died protecting the citizens of Atlanta.

"He was probably the best pilot that I know," Mark Veazey said. 

Halford was Veazey's flight instructor when he started at the Academy for the Atlanta Police Department in 1997. Veazey now works in the private sector.

"The way he handled the helicopter, the way he prepared mentally to go in every night to get ready for his job, he is the only guy I know who irons his T-shirts," Veazey said. "I know he is an angel looking down from heaven. And that is a blessing knowing he is an angel."

"They have to look at the fact that not only were they police officers but somebody's son, father, brother, you know it is a tragic loss," said Ken Walker, a lifetime resident of Atlanta.

Smiley's family will receive visitors on Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home on Flat Shoals Parkway in Decatur.

Smiley's funeral is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday at First Baptist Church of Atlanta.

Memorial funds have also been set up in honor of the officers and to assist family members with expenses.

Donations are accepted at any Wells Fargo bank location for the Officer Richard Halford Memorial Fund or the Officer Shawn Smiley Memorial Fund.

Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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Two officers were killed when their police helicopter crashed late Saturday night in southwest Atlanta. Read story Atlanta police are mourning the loss of two officers killed in a tragic helicopter crash. More>>

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