Cpl. Zach Moak ‘engaged the suspect even when he was mortally wounded’

Published 1:29 pm Thursday, October 4, 2018

Cpl. Zach Moak’s last thoughts were of his fellow officer, already bleeding and dying, as he struggled to pull him to safety, Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins said Thursday during the funeral service for the 31-year-old officer.

At the hourlong service at Easthaven Baptist Church, Collins said Moak, responding to a call of shots fired on North Sixth Street Saturday morning just moments behind patrolman James White, found his colleague down. He tried to save him.

“He engaged the suspect even when he was mortally wounded. He did not think of himself. He went toward officer James White and he was pulling him out of the line of fire to safety,” he said. “And with his final breath he called ‘Brookhaven, I’m going down.’ There is no love greater than to give your life for another.”

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Both officers were taken to King’s Daughters Medical Center where they were pronounced dead. The suspect is in custody at a Jackson hospital.

“We are in a fight to the death, make no mistake about it,” he said

The chief said officers don’t choose that field just for a job.

“It’s a calling from God, it is not a job,” he said. “We cannot lose this fight. We’re under attack every day. But I’ve got news for you, Satan. You get out of the way or we will kick you out of the way. We will never stop, we will never give up and if we should fall, somebody rise up, stand up and answer the call.”

Collins said the Brookhaven Police Department and other law enforcement officers will carry on the fight so Moak and White will not have died in vain.

“All you criminals, all you social media folks, you want to talk about us? This is God’s army and no weapon formed against us will ever win,” he said, receiving a standing ovation.

Collins was one of several who spoke at Thursday’s packed services, his second in two days. White’s service was held at Easthaven Wednesday with many making the trip to the church on Hwy. 84 twice to pay last respects.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who has roots in Bogue Chitto, stood in for Gov. Phil Bryant at the second funeral service. Though he’d never met the officer, he believes he knows the type of person he was. He suggested they could even be kin somewhere down the line.

He said he knows Moak’s kind of people.

“They’re the kind of people that would do anything to help a neighbor,” he said. “Zach came from the kind of people where he learned that getting up, putting on that uniform and that badge, going out and protecting his community was just the right thing to do.”

Rev. Jeff Davis, a director at Brookhaven Funeral Home and pastor at Wellman Baptist Church where Moak was a member, recalled John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

He said Moak loved hunting for interesting junk to buy, a passion he shared with his pastor, and making things. He had a special place in his heart for his niece, Avery Moak.

The word “protector” has popped up in many conversations Davis had with Moak’s friends and family since Saturday.

“Time and time again he was spoken of as a protector,” he said.

The officer’s mother asked him for a police scanner so she could listen to calls.

“The first thing he said was ‘No, momma,’” Davis said.

She asked for his call sign and again his refused.

“He was protecting her through all of those things,” Davis said. “Sometimes it’s better that a momma just don’t know.”

He showed a photograph Moak had taken one night in his patrol car. The officer, who was just shy of 32 years old when he died, was holding a note to his young cousin who idolized the officer. He wrote, “Cohen, while you are sleeping, I’ll always be watching over you.”

Davis pointed out the young man in the crowd.

“I believe this really does sum up what he believed in his heart and the reason for his service,” he said. “Zach was a protector but he was also an inspiration.”

Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox, who spoke at both services, said this tragedy is a reminder of the dangers law enforcement officers face on a daily basis.

“They never know what the day will hold but they embrace their responsibility with great passion and commitment to duty,” he said. “Know this, our community is strong. We come together in times of tragedy. We stand united with the family of Cpl. Moak and the Brookhaven Police Department. We will get through this together as only a family can and in so doing we will honor the memory of our fallen hero.”

Rev. Dan Perry, a former pastor at Wellman, offered advice to Moak’s family, telling them to recount silly stories about the fallen officer and to keep his pictures out so his memory would stay alive.

He urged them to rely on scripture to get through this tragic event.

“The words of God are real. They’re powerful. They’re eternal. It’s true. And it will eventually, ultimately bring strength, peace and comfort,” he said. “I encourage Zach’s fellow officers today, those of you in law enforcement, continue to serve, to protect and care for this community, that there will be a healing. There will be a unity and a coming together.”

Vocalist Leah Stewart sang “How Great Thou Art” with Vonda Laird and “Go Rest High on that Mountain” during the service. She also offered her cover of Lauren Daigle’s “Rescue” at the request of Moak’s mother, although Vicki Moak left the selection of the song up to Stewart.

She chose “Rescue” for the lyrics, which reminded her of Zach Moak and other law enforcement officers.

“This is for the officers in what you offer civilians in the way of protection,” she said. “In the way that every day you leave your home you’re putting your life at risk for people you do not know, so thank you.”