"A greater compliment does no one have than the president of the United States looking after your toys"

By Virginia Chamlee
April 14, 2021 11:49 AM
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A brief moment of heartwarmth came amid heartbreak on Tuesday when President Joe Biden picked up a toy that had been dropped by the daughter of Billy Evans during a ceremony to honor the killed police officer in the Capitol Rotunda.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks during the service, Biden could be seen jumping out of his seat to grab the toy, shaped like the Capitol dome, and handing it to Abigail Evans, whose father was killed earlier this month after a driver rammed a barricade outside the Capitol.

"A greater compliment does no one have than the president of the United States looking after your toys," Pelosi said.

In another scene, 7-year-old Abigail was photographed wiping tears from her mother's eyes during the service, while her 9-year-old brother Logan could be seen wearing his father's police hat.

Both children clutched stuffed animals throughout the ceremony.

Capitol memorial
President Joe Biden (left) hands Abigail Evans (sitting, center) a toy at the Tuesday memorial service for her father, Billy Evans,
| Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Evans was an 18-year veteran of the Capitol Police, having joined the department in 2003, according to a statement from acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman.

During the altercation, other officers fatally shot the suspect, 25-year-old Noah Green. 

"It is with profound sadness that I share the news of the passing of Officer William 'Billy' Evans this afternoon from injuries he sustained following an attack at the North Barricade by a lone assailant," Chief Pittman said in an earlier statement. "Officer Evans had been a member of the United States Capitol Police for 18 years. He began his USCP service on March 7, 2003, and was a member of the Capitol Division's First Responder's Unit. Please keep Officer Evans and his family in your thoughts and prayers."

As his flag-draped casket was brought into the Capitol on Tuesday, where it was lying in honor, Biden delivered a speech to the assembled crowd.

The president — long called upon for eulogies — drew on his own history of loss for his remarks. (His first wife and baby daughter were killed in a Christmastime car crash in 1972 and his older son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in 2015.)

"Mrs. Evans, you have — I have some idea of what you're feeling like. I buried two of my children," Biden said. "And people have come up to you and are going to come up to you for some time and say, 'I know how you feel.'  ... And after a while — you know everybody means well — you feel like saying, "You have no idea.' "

Capitol memorial
Shannon Terranova (left) and Abigail Evans
| Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

The president continued, speaking directly to the family: "That's how you're all going to know that you're going to make it: By holding each other together and, most importantly, by holding Logan and Abigail as tightly as you can. Because as long as you have them, you've got Billy. As long as you have them."

"Losing a son, daughter, brother, sister, mom, dad — it's like losing a piece of your soul," Biden said. "But it's buried deep, but it comes back."

Friends and colleagues have remembered Evans as someone who was "always happy, always laughing," and loved his kids.

Jason LaForest, a North Adams City Council member and childhood friend of Evans, told NPR that he "had an infectious laugh and an infectious smile."

"There isn't a picture of those kids that doesn't show them not just smiling but smiling broadly, and you know that there's a laugh behind all of that," LaForest said. "Billy's a guy who could make a trip to the dump look like a truly good time, and he certainly made every moment count with his children."

In his remarks delivered before the Evans family on Tuesday, Biden called Evans "a hero."

"Your son, your husband, your brother, your dad was a hero. And he's part of you. It's in your blood," the president said. "My prayer for you is that moment when a smile comes before the tear, quicker than longer."