ADAMS — From the rainy street outside St. Stanislaus Kostka, onlookers could just make out the inside of the church, its cavernous ceiling and cross bathed in a warm, orange glow.
Sheets of rain poured onto the crowd that had gathered outside, rivulets forming along the road, as officers carried the casket of U.S. Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans into the church.
“It was the time to take a deep breath, and realize that we’ve lost one of our own,” said state Rep. John Barrett III, of North Adams, a friend of the family who attended the funeral in Adams on Thursday. “We’ve lost one of our own, and he won’t be home again.”
Outside the church, rows of officers moved in unison, the hats of state police officers covered in waterproof tarps. More than 100 law enforcement officers, including local agencies, Boston Police and Evans’ colleagues from the Capitol Police, had joined the proceedings.
Just in front of the church doors, a dozen officers without hats or umbrellas stood in two neat lines, their black suits drenched by the rain, as the casket passed.
Behind the police cones, a few dozen locals joined the proceedings, hidden under a smattering of umbrellas. Some lingered for the entire funeral.
Judy McConnell, who used to go bowling with Evans’ mother, Janice, was one of the locals who came to pay respects.
“This poor young man lost his life serving his country,” said McConnell, of Adams. “His mother’s heart must be broken. Coming out is the right thing to do to respect people who put their lives on the line every day.”
Evans, 41, a native of North Adams, was killed April 2, outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, less than 100 feet from the building he had spent 18 years protecting.
Evans, who also grew up in Clarksburg, graduated from Drury High School in 1998 and Western New England College in 2002. The next year, he joined the Capitol Police, where he served for most of those 18 years with the First Responder Unit.
During the ceremony, a traditional Catholic Mass, Bishop William Byrne of the Diocese of Springfield delivered the eulogy.
Byrne, who had spent years working in the District of Columbia, was familiar with the Capitol Police. In his remarks, he spoke about how, among his comings and goings in Washington, he almost certainly saw Evans at work at the North Barricade, several people who attended the funeral told The Eagle.
Among the attendees was a large contingent of Capitol Police.
“They were part of the ceremony because they were so much a part of his life,” Barrett said. “You could see the real pain on their faces. They knew what they’ve been facing for the past two months down there. And they knew there was a good chance they’d lose one of their officers.”
Despite the outpouring of support from the community outside, the ceremony inside the church was somber, attendees said. Barrett, who handed Evans his diploma at his graduation from Drury, told The Eagle he was heartbroken to watch Evans’ two children — Abigail, 7, and Logan, 9.
“The president and all the people in Washington gave beautiful eulogies,” Barrett said. “But, I think when it all comes down to it, the family would have traded it all away if he could be here today. These tributes are great. But, he’s still gone.”
After the service, the procession continued to Bellevue Cemetery. Given the option to have Evans buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the family chose instead to lay him to rest beside his father.
Neighbors of the cemetery streamed out of their houses, waiting along Bellevue Avenue. Greg LaFreniere was among them, standing with his wife outside their house, on a neat yard lined with American flags.
LaFreniere knew the family, and remembered, with a smile, how Howard Evans, Billy’s father, and Howard’s best friend had met and married two young women who also were best friends. He said he was rattled by the news of Evans’ death.
“It’s just terrible,” he said. “So much that’s going on in our country is terrible, but this touches us, in this small town, and it’s absolutely terrible.”
Like others, LaFreniere had watched the tribute as Evans lay in honor at the U.S. Capitol and had been struck by the moment when President Joe Biden returned a fallen toy to Evans’ daughter.
“To see the president of the United States getting up and picking up that little toy, that was one of the most moving things,” he said.
Once the procession reached the cemetery, police departments began to peel off slowly, lines of motorcycles riding back down the wide road. The crowd thinned, too, as onlookers retreated from the rain and back into their houses.
Half an hour later, just three people remained on Bellevue Avenue, holding flags and watching the empty road.
One man, who did not want to be identified because he wanted the day to be about the family, told The Eagle that he would wait outside until Evans’ children came back out after the burial.
He wanted to support the people who had to walk out of the cemetery, because soon the cameras and fanfare would dwindle, leaving Evans’ children, their mother and their grandmother to mourn on their own.
“The news is over,” he said. “Now, the hard part begins.”