A single, white snapdragon fell from a large flower arrangement as she stood inside a Gwinnett County funeral home Tuesday afternoon. Marion Johnson just knew it was a sign, and she picked it up.
“I will hold onto this forever,” Johnson said.
It was her favorite flower, and it was proof that the young-faced officer she’d seen so many times patrolling her community was at peace. Officer Antwan Toney, whose grin reminded Johnson of her own brother, was shot to death Saturday afternoon. Toney had just turned 30, the same age as Johnson’s daughter. Like Toney, Johnson was also a California native.
At the visitation for Toney, Johnson said she had one message for his mother.
“We’re family, and I’m always gonna be praying for you,” Johnson told her.
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Johnson was among the hundreds who waited quietly in two lines to enter Crowell Brothers Funeral Home in Peachtree Corners to honor Toney, whose photo appeared on a large tapestry draped over a small couch.
A U.S. flag draped Toney’s coffin, flanked by honor guards. Several family members, who flew in from California, greeted uniformed officers and firefighters, along with civilians who came to pay their respects. Toney’s aunt and mother were the first in line to greet each visitor, followed by a siblings and other relatives.
The family greeted each visitor with a hug or handshake while listening to words of sympathy and memories of Toney, managing to smile occasionally through the tears. In addition to his parents, Toney is survived by a grandfather, three siblings, three nieces and a godson, according to his obituary.
On Saturday, just six days after his birthday, Toney was killed while responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle near Shiloh Middle School in unincorporated Snellville, according to police. The alleged gunman, Tafahree Maynard, was the subject of an extensive manhunt before he was found hiding Monday. Maynard, 18, was shot and killed after refusing to surrender and pointing a lawn mower blade at officers.
Daniel and Loredana Pop, who live within a few miles of where Toney was killed, brought their 11-month-old daughter, Emma Faith, with them Tuesday to the funeral home. The Pops had planned to visit the cemetery behind the funeral home because it is where Emma’s twin, Ella Grace, is buried.
“As soon I heard about the visitation, I said ‘We have to go,’” Daniel Pop said. “It’s really sad. An innocent man lost his life protecting our society.”
Loredana Pop said the picture of Toney showed his joy and pride in his work. She and her husband said the shooting illustrates the lack of respect shown to law enforcement officers. But she’s hopeful a grieving community will be able to rebound from Toney’s death.
“I know it’s a tragedy, but what if it inspires young children to be officers?” she asked.
The Gwinnett police department has received an outpouring of support, including from agencies in other states. Several businesses also donated their services to assist the Toney family, including the funeral home and Delta Air Lines, according to a spokesman for the funeral home.
Toney, the fourth Georgia officer killed by gunfire this year and 45th nationwide, was just days away from his three-year anniversary on the police force when he was killed. On Wednesday, hundreds are expected to attend his funeral at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville. From the church, officers will escort Toney’s casket back to the funeral home. From there, his body will be returned to California for a second funeral and burial.
As she left the funeral home, Johnson said she would be attending the funeral. She struggled to understand the tragedy.
“We’re living in a chaotic time because God is on the back-burner,” she said. “I’m just blessed to have known him.”
Funeral details for Officer Toney
Where: 12Stone Church, 1322 Buford Drive, Lawrenceville, GA
When: 11:00 a.m. Wednesday
Parking: The parking lot for 12Stone Church will open at 9:00 am. New Bridge Church (next to 12Stone) will allow for overflow parking if needed. Those who park at New Bridge Church will be taken to 12Stone Church via buses. The main parking lot area (the parking lot located in front of the main entrance to the building) at the 12 Stone Church campus will be shut down at 10:15am (after the arrival of the family and hearse).
Procession: Following the services, there will be a procession beginning at 12Stone and concluding at Crowell Brothers Funeral Home at 5051 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Peachtree Corners. The procession will consist of the hearse, family, Gwinnett County Police Department personnel, and other officers from the law enforcement community. Members of the community may line the streets for the procession.
Route: Exit 12Stone campus and turn right towards SR316; Turn right onto SR316 West; Exit onto Sugarloaf Parkway and turn right; Turn left onto Peachtree Industrial Boulevard; Turn right into Crowell Brothers Funeral Home