'Sorely missed:' Benny Napoleon laid to rest after private funeral

Ariana Taylor

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon was laid to rest Wednesday by close friends and family celebrating his accomplished life and lasting legacy.

The three-hour private service at Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Detroit featured stories from family, friends, colleagues and public figures about how Napoleon touched the lives of many. 

“We are assembled in this place with mixed emotions. Our hearts are hurting and yet they are happy," Pastor Tellis Chapman of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church said. "Hurting because we are without physical presence of a brother beloved. We're happy because he's now free."

The Wayne County sheriff and former Detroit police chief died Dec. 17 at Henry Ford Hospital about three weeks after he was placed on a respirator while fighting COVID-19.

Powerful prayers and music selections brought funeral attendees to their feet with their hands raised towards the sky. 

While not many were able to attend Napoleon’s funeral in person, nearly 3,000 people watched the service that was livestreamed on Facebook. The love and support Napoleon garnered was not only shown in viewers but also in the dozens of flower arrangments that surrounded his embroidered, wood casket. 

Tiffani Jackson remembers her late father, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon during Napoleon's funeral in Detroit on Wednesday, December 30, 2020.

“I shared my father with a lot of people but there was never a moment that I lacked anything and there was never a moment that I felt neglected," said Tiffani Jackson, Napoleon's only daughter. 

"He was my therapist, he was my counselor, he was my comedian and he was my ride or die... there'll forever be this hole in my heart that cannot be filled because you cannot replace a bond like this... Rest well Daddy, you did an amazing job."

The gospel song, 'Lord I'm Coming Home' was sung as the casket was closed and attendees paid their final respects, and Jackson tearfully and tenderly said her last goodbye. 

Napoleon was laid to rest at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit. 

Visitations were held Monday at the Swanson Funeral Home in Detroit and Tuesday at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.

Video tributes from Napoleon's friends and colleagues who had to stay home were played during the service. 

"In 2000 when I was running for prosecutor, Benny would tutor me and he kept telling me, 'If the police chief and the prosecutor ever worked together, we could get the violence down and give the people of Detroit the safe city they deserve,'" said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "Benny touched the lives of the people in this city in a rare and special way."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks about Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon via remote video link during Napoleon's funeral in Detroit on Wednesday, December 30, 2020.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans also shared their sentiments via video. 

"He loved a lot of people and that was returned many times over and over," Whitmer said. "I'm so grateful for having had his friendship."

"I wish I could have told him a few more times how much I appreciated the man he was, the leader he was and he's going to be sorely missed," Evans added.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks about Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon via remote video link during Napoleon's funeral in Detroit on Wednesday, December 30, 2020.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made in Napoleon's honor to the Wayne County Youth and Senior Education Fund. Donations may be mailed to 4747 Woodward, Detroit, Michigan 48201.

Donations later will be placed into a scholarship fund for Napoleon's grandson, Malachi K. Jackson, Sheriff's Office officials said in a press release.