By Aisha I. Jefferson
Hundreds of people gathered at Salem Baptist Church in McDonough Saturday afternoon to bid farewell to Henry County Bureau of Police Services officer Charles Haist.
Those who knew him best spoke about his infectious, crooked smile, his warm heart and his willingness to put others before himself.
"You had to be in a good mood around Chuck, whether you wanted to or not," Henry County Police Lt. Tim Ferguson said, as sniffles were heard throughout the church while well-wishers tried to hold back their tears.
Flowers adorned the stage as family members, friends and law enforcement agents step forward to speak about Haist.
"Chuck had a burning desire to help others," Haist's younger sister Kathalee MacDonald said.
Police officer Charles Haist, 32, wrecked on Ga. Highway 20/81 while en route to assist other officers on a burglary call early Wednesday morning.
Police responded to an alarm call at Premiere Wireless Solutions on Eagle's Landing Parkway in Stockbridge and discovered a burglary in progress, arresting three men. The suspects, Stacey Lamar Seaborn, 18, of Atlanta; Bruce Austin, 18, of Riverdale; and Deangelo Terrod Myers, 19, of College Park, made their first court appearance Friday morning.
The men will not face felony murder charges relating to Haist's death, according to Flint Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tommy Floyd.
The Georgia State Patrol Specialized Collision and Reconstruction Team are investigating possible causes behind the accident.
About 40 people stood on the side of Ga. Highway 155, watching the funeral procession head toward Forest Hill Memorial Gardens in Forest Park, some of them saluting Haist.
Haist, who was divorced, had two daughters, 9 and 11, who live in Missouri with their mother. He joined the Henry County Police department two-and-a-half years ago.
McDonough residents Kellie Smith and Esther Rochester were among those watching who did not know Haist personally.
"We wanted to pay our respects," said Smith, whose father was a retired Henry County Sheriff's Deputy. Smith said she and Rochester live near Haist's accident site and their children inquired about it.
Haist's family has set up a trust fund at the Georgia Federal Credit Union at 105 North Park Trail, Suite 100, in Stockbridge. Checks can be make payable to the Georgia Federal Credit Union, attention "Charles Haist Memorial Fund."