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Slain Las Vegas police officer remembered as ‘best of the best’

Updated October 28, 2022 - 6:40 pm

Slain Las Vegas police officer Truong Thai was remembered Friday as the “the best of the best.”

The veteran Metropolitan Police Department officer was 49 when he was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance.

During a funeral Friday in a packed Henderson megachurch, family members spoke of his loving, encouraging presence. Fellow officers spoke of his dedication to policing but also their close friendships with him. All recalled Thai’s gift for offering a guiding hand.

“We lost a father, brother, uncle, son, mentor and community hero,” said the Rev. Michael Kitchen, a pastor at Central Church, where the service was held. “Thai was the best of the best. He dedicated his entire life to serving and protecting this community.”

Hundreds of people, from Thai’s family and friends to law enforcement officers and first responders from the Las Vegas Valley and around the country, were in attendance.

Before the service, a huge procession wound its way along a 27-mile route throughout the valley. In some spots along the route, people gathered on overpasses and at the side of the road to pay their respects to Thai.

Starting at Palm Mortuary at 1325 N. Main St. , the convoy of police motorcycles, patrol cars, ambulances, fire trucks, and other first responder vehicles traveled down the Las Vegas Strip and through parts of the resort corridor before arriving at the church, where an honor guard of hundreds of officers stood.

Given the sheer size of the crowd, the silence was powerful.

The casket, which was brought to the church entrance aboard Metro’s Honor Guard 1 pickup truck, was followed by the Metro officers who were the pallbearers. Behind them were several dozen of Thai’s grieving relatives, who followed the casket into the church.

Thai was slain on Oct. 13. After Thai and other officers responded to a domestic disturbance call on East Flamingo Road near South University Center Drive, according to police, Tyson Hampton, 24, fired at them with an AK-47 pistol, striking Thai.

The officer was taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where he died from a gunshot wound to the torso.

‘Hero to the end’

Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Thai “was a helper and a hero to the end,” because after Thai was mortally wounded, he managed to fire five rounds at the suspect while lying on the ground.

“Thai did not back down in the face of danger,” the sheriff said.

Lombardo also pointed out former Sheriff Jerry Keller, who was seated near Thai’s family. Keller pinned Thai’s badge on him when Thai graduated from the academy and joined the department in 1999, Lombardo said.

Joining Metro was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Born in Bac Lieu, Vietnam, Thai grew up wanting to be a police officer, said his younger brother, Thuong Thai.

“If I had to describe him in one word, I would say ‘selfless,’” Thuong Thai said.

Instead of fame or fortune, his older brother preferred serving others, Thoung Thai said.

Janet Thai, the officer’s niece, spoke about what it was like growing up with “Uncle Thai.”

She said that when she joined the U.S. Marines and then began a career in law enforcement, the lessons of courage and commitment that she would need in those roles had already been taught to her by her uncle, “because he embodied them.”

“He loved his family. All of us. Metro. The Asian community. The city of Las Vegas,” Janet Thai said. “He was proud to dutifully and honorably serve even to the very end. And even in death he continues to teach us. He would want us to come together, lean on and be kind to each other, as he always has.”

‘Always trying to help’

Metro officer Greg Hilton also spoke, sharing memories of his friend.

Hilton recalled Thai being at his house for a Christmas dinner. When Hilton’s kids got an air hockey table for Christmas, the kids had Thai play a few games with them. Soon, Thai was coaching the youngsters.

“This was Thai to the core,” Hilton said. “Always trying to help.”

But Thai wasn’t great at all things, his friend joked.

“Fishing was probably one of the only things Thai was terrible at,” Hilton said, recalling some of their outings on the water together.

Another colleague who became a friend, officer Carlos Carreon, remembered when Carreon, then a new officer, was to spend the night working with Thai, who assured Carreon it would be an easy night.

“Not even an hour later we were wrestling a drunk female out of Blue Martini who was screaming she wanted to soil herself on us,” Carreon recalled.

It was one of several funny memories he shared of his friendship with Thai.

“I never expected to picture a time that I would not be able to go to him, ask him questions and talk to him,” Carreon said.

Thai is survived by a daughter, Jada, and his father, Quang. In addition to his brother, Thai also had four sisters, Amy, Mandy, Daisy and Betsy, according to an online obituary.

Hampton faces 28 counts, including murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, battery resulting in substantial bodily harm, discharging a firearm at a vehicle, battery resulting in domestic violence and 18 counts of discharging a firearm within a vehicle.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com or 561-324-6421. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter. Review-Journal Metro intern Jimmy Romo contributed to this report.

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