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Authorities call murder of Georgia sheriff-elect a 'professional hit'
'You can kill the dreamer, but you can't kill the dream'
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Thousands of mourners attended funeral services Thursday for DeKalb County's reform-minded Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown, gunned down in front of his home last weekend in an ambush authorities described as a professional hit.
"I just want to know why," his wife of 23 years, Phyllis, said in a tearful interview with CNN.
Brown, 46, a career cop and the father of five children, had just returned from a victory party early Saturday when a gunman using an automatic or semi-automatic weapon opened fire, hitting him 11 times as he walked up his driveway. He had been scheduled to take office Monday.
"Until I saw the body and realized how many times he'd been shot, (that's) when I realized this was someone who wanted him dead very badly ... We would call it a hit," county District Attorney J. Tom Morgan told CNN.
"There were a lot of people who wanted this man dead."
Law enforcement sources said investigators theorize that two people, the shooter and a driver, were lying in wait for Brown in a vehicle parked outside his home. They said the 16 shots fired at Brown came from an automatic or semi-automatic with a large clip.
Brown defeated incumbent Sheriff Sidney Dorsey in August and had identified as many as 50 employees who faced dismissal or demotion once he took office. Morgan said those employees are among potential suspects -- though some saved their jobs with personal appeals to Brown, according to his wife -- along with representatives of some companies contracted to do business with the county.
Phyllis Brown returned home before her husband. He had given her a dozen roses and she had just hung up the new sheriff's uniform Brown himself designed to symbolize his promised reforms.
She hoped her husband would see it for the first time when he returned; instead, he was buried in the new uniform Thursday.
"He just had a dream, a vision to clean up the place and I'm not going to let the dream die," Mrs. Brown said.
The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in south Dekalb County was packed for Thursday's funeral, with mourners filling the first floor pews as well as an upper loft as a gospel choir sang.
"You can kill the dreamer, but you can't kill the dream," state Attorney General Thurbert Baker said in one of many eulogies.
Morgan said investigators were looking into possible links between Brown's death and reports he had been stalked during his campaign against Dorsey.
Atlanta political pollster Harry Ross told CNN he saw a suspicious man trailing Brown in the summer.
Ross told of an incident in which he was riding with Brown unaware of anybody following them until Brown said, "See that car. We're being tailed." Ross said he gave investigators a full account of that encounter.
Until his election, Brown had been a captain with the Dekalb County Police Department, the agency he served for 22 years.
His wife and children -- ranging in age from 17 to 23 -- were in the house as he was gunned down outside.
Mrs. Brown said she heard what sounded like "firecrackers," hit the floor, cracked the front door open and saw her husband lying in the wet grass outside.
She said she went out and said to him, "Hang on baby," even though she feared the worst.
Now, she said, all she wants is for the killer to be caught.
"The one thing that, I think, we tried to impart to our children is the importance of family," she said. "And whether good, bad, ugly, we're still a family. And to lose their dad in that way -- I mean, I can't even describe it."
Sheriff-elect shot dead in front of Atlanta home
DeKalb County Department of Public Safety
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