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Tuesday, June 6, 2023
June 6, 2023

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Widow of slain Clark County Sgt. Brown: ‘He lived to serve and protect’

More than 2,500 people attended the funeral at ilani

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
4 Photos
The body of Sgt. Jeremy Brown arrives at ilani casino as a multi-agency honor guard pays tribute Tuesday morning, Aug. 3, 2021.
The body of Sgt. Jeremy Brown arrives at ilani casino as a multi-agency honor guard pays tribute Tuesday morning, Aug. 3, 2021. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

COWLITZ INDIAN RESERVATION — Family and friends of slain Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown described him at his funeral Tuesday as a warrior and fun-loving man who inspired those around him.

Affectionately known as J-Bone or Brownie at the sheriff’s office, those around him recognized his “genuine servant’s heart,” as Sheriff Chuck Atkins put it.

“He was devoted to his profession and those that he served with. He was a true brother. He lived to serve and protect. And he has made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so,” Brown’s widow, Jill Brown, said through tears.

It was standing-room only at ilani’s Cowlitz Ballroom, a space that holds about 2,500 people. An overflow viewing space was also set up at a Hazel Dell church. The largest presence at the funeral was from law enforcement officers — local, regional and from as far away as New York.

A procession of hundreds of emergency vehicles left Clark College shortly after 11 a.m., proceeded up Interstate 5 and arrived at ilani about a half-hour later.

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Sgt. Ethan Wynecoop pays tribute to Sgt. Jeremy Brown during his celebration of life at ilani casino Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 3, 2021.
Funeral for Clark County Sgt. Jeremy Brown Photo Gallery

Escorted by officers on foot and horseback, the hearse slowly rolled toward its destination as bagpipes played in the background. It passed beneath a giant American flag, held aloft by fire engines. A horse with no rider, symbolic of a fallen soldier, led the procession.

Brown’s flag-draped casket was then escorted into ilani, followed by his family.

“Jeremy was my everything. Those of you that knew him are definitely thinking, ‘Amen, mine too,’” Jill Brown said. “For those of you that loved him, my wish is that you will find some comfort in those that recognize your grief.”

She described her husband as “the most sincere, honest, loyal, loving and driven man that one could ever know.”

“Jeremy did not just have a heart of a lion. He was a lion. There are very few lions in this world and walking with one of them is a gift for which we should be eternally grateful,” Jill Brown told the audience. “Someone once said, ‘The thing about a lion, is that it doesn’t have to tell you it’s a lion.’ And that was so true of Jeremy. He walked life with a quiet humble strength that can’t be explained — it just was.”

Family speaks

She then introduced Brown’s five adult children, whom she referred to as his pride.

Brown’s son, Gage, who gave the eulogy, said his dad was “a man of integrity — honest to a fault, sensitive, resilient and wicked smart.” He would have turned 47 on Aug. 1.

“He was a kind and loving papa to seven grandchildren, whom he completely adored,” Gage Brown said, his voice choked with emotion.

He said his father will miss out on many special occasions, including his three youngest children’s weddings. Jeremy Brown was scheduled to be his son’s best man.

Jeremy Brown grew up in Sweet Home, Ore., his son said, and despite having a rough childhood, strived to be better; law enforcement was his calling.

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Officers on motorcycles start the procession preceding the funeral of Clark County Sheriff's Sgt. Jeremy Brown on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, at Clark College. Brown was fatally shot on July 23 while conducting surveillance on a group of people at an east Vancouver apartment complex. Hundreds of law enforcement vehicles took place in the procession up I-5 to ilani casino in La Center. It took 15 minutes for the hundreds of vehicles to vacate the Clark College lot.
Funeral procession for slain Clark County Sheriff detective Photo Gallery

Brown served as a military police officer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1993 to 1995. He then became a reserve officer with the Missoula County, Mont., Sheriff’s Office while attending school at the University of Montana.

At one time, Brown worked for the Washington Department of Corrections at Larch Corrections Center near Yacolt. He worked at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office for about 15 years. He served in many roles: deputy, search and rescue, marine patrol and the drug task force, and he was the master instructor for the sheriff’s office’s defensive tactics program, Gage Brown said.

He said his father found being outside in nature, by water, to be therapeutic. He was always learning and unafraid to try new things, such as sailing, Gage Brown said, which he taught himself, largely by watching YouTube videos.

Jeremy Brown’s younger sister, Julie Savolainen, said her brother — 11 months her senior — wasn’t a dreamer; he was a doer.

He never let the fact that he didn’t know how to do something stop him, she said. He never slowed down.

Savolainen said her brother was “a great man in spite of adversity and life’s circumstances.” They lost their father at a very young age, and Brown became the closest thing to a father figure she ever knew.

“He forged a future with a honorary skill set, and he made it his own by adding his quick-witted humor, kind heart and humbleness,” she said.

Brown was the glue that kept his family together, his sister said.

‘Brownisms’ recalled

Atkins echoed the importance of family to Brown.

“He loved the sheriff’s office, but you really felt his love when you talked to him about his family,” Atkins said. When Brown talked about his family that “oh-so-natural smile of his just blessed his face.”

Atkins recalled getting the call about Brown being wounded in the line of duty on the evening of Friday, July 23. The sheriff said he was numb. He raced to the hospital and saw grief-stricken law enforcement officers. A suspect has been arrested in Brown’s death.

Clark County Chief Criminal Deputy John Horch, Brown’s boss and close friend, said every member of the drug task force thought Brown made the job better with his “constant encouragement and positive attitude.”

He recalled “Brownisms,” phrases or comments Brown used that didn’t quite make sense and often needed translation. One such example was when asked about his level of sureness on something, Brown replied “nine out of 10 percent sure.” The memory prompted laughs from the audience.

Turning to a more serious note, Horch said Brown would want him to speak about the current state of law enforcement, including concerns over recently enacted police reform laws.

“Remember that Jeremy was a public servant who cared for all. He enjoyed life and had a beaming smile,” Horch said. “There was also a serious side to him when it came to the attack that law enforcement has felt, especially over the last few years. Don’t let this be another law enforcement funeral that you’re just sad about. Be courageous just like he was in any role you’re in.

“Jeremy gave it all on July 23, 2021, so that others could live in peace. Don’t let his death be for nothing.”