“I hope that it never happens to me, but if it does, I hope that I would have left a good enough impression — because we talk about him and all the good that Jeremy did. And I hope that I can leave a good impression, too.”
Miles lined up just after 8 a.m., when organizers began staging law enforcement vehicles. Officers mingled in the parking lot and grabbed snacks and coffee while waiting.
Wahkiakum County sheriff’s Deputy Lucas Getman described the atmosphere Tuesday morning as “somber.”
“It’s really hard to accept that that’s a cost of the profession we choose,” he said, referring to Brown’s death on July 23. “But we all know it. It just really hits you when you hear about it, knowing that can be any one of us at any time.”
Two officers from the town of Raymond drove two hours Tuesday morning to participate in the 20-minute procession and the funeral that followed.
Officer Mason Swartz said the drive was a small sacrifice compared to what Brown gave to his community.
This was the first law enforcement funeral Swartz has attended, but he said it’s encouraging to see the brotherhood.
Lining the overpass
Shortly before 11 a.m., a few dozen people were already waiting on the Northeast 139th Street overpass on Interstate 5 to watch the procession. Clark County Fire District 6 trucks and an AMR ambulance were stationed on the overpass as well. People waited on other freeway overpasses along the motorcade’s route, waving flags and holding balloons, to show support for the Brown family.
“I have friends who are officers and they’re down right now,” said Jackie Purvis of Vancouver. “They’re feeling pretty depressed about the state of affairs and sad they lost their officer, and I want to show them support.”
Portland Police Bureau Officer Kyle Green called Tuesday “bittersweet” for the way the funeral brought so many agencies together for such a solemn occasion. He pointed out the hugs and quiet laughter exchanged at the college while everyone waited to do their part to honor Brown.
“It’s going to be a long day,” Green said. “But it’s worth it.”
Green was one of several Portland police officers at the procession. He said he appreciated that so many of them are able to participate in whatever way they can when an officer in the area is killed.
This one felt different for Green. He’s been to four law enforcement funerals — which he called “four too many” — in his 12 years in law enforcement. But this time the officer was killed in Green’s hometown. He lives in Vancouver and has friends in Clark County police agencies. He didn’t know Brown, but he said that word travels fast through the law enforcement community any time someone is killed in the line of duty.
Wahkiakum County Undersheriff Gary Howell said these types of funerals for officers are “like coming together with family.”
This was the eighth police funeral he’s attended, and he described each as hurting and numbing him the same way. Still, he said, it’s not so much the turnout from other police agencies that is most meaningful, but the turnout from the public.
Tony Lugo of Vancouver felt a connection with Brown, which motivated him to come out to the 139th Street overpass along the procession route.
“Well, I’m a (Air Force) veteran. Because he’s a police officer, we share a common goal,” Lugo said. “You sign up to protect the people of the country. I felt it was important to be out here and show my support. He’s as much a vet as I am, and for him to get shot — that’s just wrong.”
Gary Smith said he felt compelled to come out Tuesday to watch the procession in support of the Brown family — his wife, Jill, and five grown children.
“Five kids … it’s tragic. And they’re trying to protect us and our community, which is important,” Smith said. “For me personally, it’s very emotional. I’m choking up even talking about it.”
Taylor Balkom contributed to this story for The Columbian.