Henry Nicholas Laxson died trying to help someone else.

He was always smiling, always full of energy and born to protect others, say those who knew him best.

“He could defend when he needed to and he was a doofus the rest of the time,” said Deacon Nicholas Wolfla during Laxson’s funeral on Tuesday.

Hundreds, including Gov. Brian Kemp, attended the service for Laxson, a Clayton County police officer killed in the line of duty Nov. 30. Through their tears, friends and family members shared stories of a man remembered for his playful side and his dedication to serving his community.

After joining the department in 2017, Laxson became a member of the SWAT team in 2019 before taking on the role as a field training officer in 2020, Chief Kevin Roberts said. Laxson also was a member of the department’s gang unit and dive team.

He was trying to help a gunshot victim at a Rex home when he was shot, according to police. Investigators believe 35-year-old Arthur Allen Gilliam killed two women, shot a 12-year-old boy in the face and then fired at officers, killing Laxson. Another officer returned fire, killing Gilliam.

Laxson, 27, was the third Georgia officer killed while serving in a month and the eighth this year.

Outside police headquarters, Laxson’s patrol car has served as a memorial since his death. On Tuesday, it was adorned with countless flowers and balloons, mostly blue and white.

Early Tuesday, officers from various metro Atlanta police agencies gathered to accompany the fallen officer to First Baptist Church Jonesboro.

Credit: Clayton County Police Department

Credit: Clayton County Police Department

During the service, Wolfla, Roberts, friends and Laxson’s father and fiancée shared treasured memories.

“I know our hearts are hurting, but I’m smiling because if you know Henry Laxson, you should be smiling,” Roberts said. “He’s got a hand on us; we’re going to be all right.”

While a student at Jonesboro High School, Laxson was one to stand up for other students, including those who may not have fit in, loved ones recalled. An injury ended his football career, but not his determination.

At Armstrong State University, Laxson served in student government and as a resident assistant. Becoming a police officer fulfilled a dream for him, according to Stephanie Marino, Laxson’s fiancée.

“He died doing what he loved and was born to do, protect and serve,” Marino said through tears. The two had been high school sweethearts and were recently engaged.

Laxson’s father, Perry, echoed her words.

“Boy,” the grieving father said, “your family will always remember you.”

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