by Eyewitness News Reporter Janella Newsome
NEW ORLEANS – A nine-year veteran of the New Orleans Fire Department, who was killed in a shooting outside a night club in Memphis, was laid to rest on Saturday morning.
Family, friends and firefighters gathered at Franklin Baptist Avenue Church to remember fallen NOFD Operator Gregory Howard, Sr.
“He was just so sweet. The life of the party. If you asked him for anything, he would give it. Always had a smile on his face. Always funny. Just a playful respectable young man,” Jovan Washington, Howard’s cousin, said.
Howard was struck by a stray bullet outside of a Memphis-area night club on August 26. The 36-year-old husband of two young sons was in Tennessee to play in a basketball tournament for first responders. He was never the intended target of the random act of violence.
“He was an innocent bystander. You know the questions were like: Why? Out of 30 rounds, why your relative? Out of 30 rounds only one person was hit. That's when you think like....who would do such a thing?” Washington said.
Firefighters saluted their fallen brother as the hearse and funeral procession passed the last fire station where Howard worked, located on Elysian Fields. Howard was there for nearly eight months as the operator of Engine 27 and Ladder 11. Those at the station say what happened to Howard is surreal.
“Like the scripture says: ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’ We're just going to lean on our faith and our closeness and our relationship as brothers and sisters of the New Orleans Fire Department and we're going to go from there. You know, his memory will never be lost,” New Orleans Fire 3rd District Chief Terrence Morris said.
According to Howard’s family, he spent the bulk of his nine-year career with New Orleans Station 6 on Old Gentilly in the Desire neighborhood. They say he loved his job and adored his family. As Howard has been laid to rest, attention is now focused on apprehending a suspect.