LAKE CITY, Fla. - Family and friends were among hundreds who gathered Friday morning to remember a correctional officer who was killed by an inmate earlier this week.
Sgt. Ruben Thomas was attacked by convicted killer Richard Franklin just before 10 p.m. Sunday at the Columbia Correctional Institution annex, according to investigators.
"I think this guy, as young as he is, he's touched a lot of lives, and we would never forget him, we would never forget him," said Capt. Kenneth Roundtree, who worked with Thomas.
Thomas, a six-year veteran, had a young daughter and was engaged to be married. His fiancee is pregnant with their second child, a son to be named after Thomas.
The service for Thomas at Christ Central Ministries in Lake City began with a moment of silence. Following the funeral, a procession led to his burial site at Oak Grove Cemetery.
"He was a young sergeant, he was definitely -- I think he just got promoted recently -- he was definitely on his way up," said Warden David Ellis, of the Department of Corrections. "It's the ultimate tragedy to have to end a life like this."
Law enforcement officers lined the streets and saluted the hears carrying Thomas' body as it rode by. Members of the community also paid their respects.
"It's just a way of bonding together, you know, in face of a tragedy, I guess, and showing support for one another," said Pamela Parks, Thomas' eighth-grade teacher.
"Everybody was there giving support and love for the family, and for the memory of Ruben, it was a very moving and loving service," Irene Roundtree said.
The 24-year-old was in one of the wings of a dorm checking on an inmate when a control room officer saw Franklin chase and then stab Thomas several times in the neck with a handmade weapon.
When he realized he was in danger, investigators believe Thomas tried to get away, but it was too late.
Thomas was taken to Shands Lake Shore Hospital in Lake City, where he died.
A second officer, William Brewer, was trying to lock down inmates when Franklin swung something heavy in a sock, striking Brewer in the eye, investigators said. Brewer was also taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released.
"When we walk through that gate, we come as a family," Kenneth Roundtree said. "All we do is hope and pray that we walk out that gate at the time we leave and go home."
In the funeral program, Thomas' family asked that any memories be written down and sent to Dees-Parrish Family Funeral Home to be shared with his children later in life.
To donate to Thomas' family's trust fund, go to CorrectionsFoundation.org.
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