Officer remembered for smile, dedication to community

by: Shae Rozzi Updated:

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MABLETON, Ga. - Exactly one year after she was killed in the line of duty, a memorial service was held for Officer Gail Thomas at her grave site in Mableton.

"You cannot bury that smile," a family friend said as he stood in front of the group.

Thomas served the department for 15 years and was a member of the Atlanta Police Department's Honor Guard.

She served as a mentor to younger officers.

"She was a mother figure," Officer Cyrus Colley told Channel 2's Shae Rozzi. "She brought you in and took you under her wings."

Colley and Thomas worked together in Zone 5 and on the Honor Guard.

Thomas was working an accident scene on the downtown connector on Jan. 24, 2012, when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver.

Earlier this month, Chastity Jones pleaded guilty in the incident and is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

At the memorial service, Thomas' brother talked about his sister's commitment to the community.

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"She loved what she did," Earl Thomas told Rozzi. "She would give her life again for it."

Some officers who were close friends with Thomas are still having a tough time dealing with the loss.

"It's been very difficult because I didn't get to say goodbye," Sgt. Rosa Quintana told Rozzi. "I didn't get those last words with Gail. We get so consumed in our jobs and we go about our ways but I never stop loving her, never stop thinking about her."

Bishop Marc L. House reminded the crowd how short life can be and to make sure your friends and family know how much you love them.

"If you're going to say something nice, do it now," House said. "If you're going to love somebody, do it now."

Thomas is survived by her daughter, who was not at the service.

Rozzi was told that Thomas' daughter is finishing her senior year at Georgia Southern University.

Officers say they will attend her college graduation to let her know that she is part of the family.

Family members, friends and fellow officers who gathered to remember Thomas released balloons into the air as they said a prayer for her.

The wind carried the balloons back toward the Atlanta skyline, the city she served and died trying to protect.