SALT LAKE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Officer Eric Fontes comes from a large family based on Molokai. He was the second oldest child in a family that included a brother and four half-brothers, and a half-sister from his mother, Leah Burrows-Nuuanu.
Burrows-Nuuanu sat in her Salt Lake townhouse with her husband, her four children and other family members, and talked about her brother, who died Tuesday night after a crash on Farrington Highway near the Ko Olina exit at what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.
"There's an element of disbelief. And shock. Seeing his name on the news, in the papers," she said.
Burrows-Nuuanu is the only sibling on Oahu. She said her family was aware of the dangers that could come in the line of police duty.
"We always thought about it," she said. "When we pray at night, we pray for Uncle Eric because we know he has the night shift in Kapolei."
And on Molokai, people also are remembering Eric.
"Everyone's stopping by at my parents' house, giving their condolences and support," Burrows-Nuuanu said. "His classmates are getting together, they've had a song practice. They want to honor him."
Perhaps they want to honor him, Burrows-Nuuanu said, because he had a way of making people feel important.
"He would always call, check on people, special occasions, birthdays -- he never forgot to call. And I know he always called my mom and his stepmom."
Burrows-Nuuanu said the family has been praying, not only for Eric, but also for Officer Herman Scanlan, who was injured in the crash.
And they've also been praying for the man arrested for negligent homicide in connection with the crash, James Dorsey Mancao, and his family.
"We know that they're in pain, that it was an accident. He didn't mean to. And we know that Eric would hug him and tell him its okay and forgive him and invite him to church or bible studies."
This reporter also gave Burrows-Nuuanu a printed collection of some of the hundreds of comments and condolences left on the Hawaii News Now Facebook page for Fontes, Scanlan, and their families. She nodded as she read the comments, occasionally saying "yes, yes," softly.
"We're not surprised, with Eric," she said in response to the comments. "We're just so thankful for their outpouring of support from the community."
Burrows-Nuuanu also said that that support, and her family's faith, are helping them cope.
"We know that he's in a better place. He's with God, and we'll see him again."
Services for Officer Eric Fontes will be held at Borthwick Mortuary Friday, September 30, at 5:30 p.m., with visitation between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. The family requests no flowers.
Services also are scheduled on the island of Molokai Saturday, October 8, at a time and place to be determined.