In a town flying half-staff flags, processions of motorcyclists, police vehicles and citizens in cars prepared to honor fallen Clinton police officer Gary Lee Michael Jr. Saturday morning.
In silent rows, they passed by Michael’s casket ahead of the midday funeral to come inside the Benson Center in Clinton.
Volunteers, motorcycle groups and Boy Scouts managed the heavy traffic that came from throughout the region under a warming sun over the dew-soaked grass.
Tears came to Kim Newmann’s eyes as she saw how her Clinton community and its neighbors have come together.
“I’m very proud,” she said. “When I came under that flag,” she said, gesturing back to the giant American flag hung high over Price Lane above the many more flags on vehicles lining the street below, “it was indescribable.”
She and her husband, Steve Newmann, were two of hundreds of motorcyclists from around the country who are part of the Patriot Guard Riders.
Saturday’s ceremonies carried forward a wave of mourning and support that built throughout the week since Michael was gunned down Sunday night by a driver he had pulled over for a traffic stop.
The 37-year-old officer, who’d been on the force less than a year, was honored by a procession of police and fire vehicles Wednesday morning when his body was delivered home from Kansas City, and again that evening when hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the Henry County Courthouse in Clinton.
Tributes to the fallen officer flooded social media throughout the week, culminating in a visitation service at the Vansant-Mills Funeral Home in Clinton Friday night, and then Saturday’s funeral.
Patrick Quinn had come from Dixon, Ill., with his comfort dog, Shiloh, as part of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry.
“This tells me there still a lot of people who support our law enforcement officers,” he said. “Fallen officers are dear to us. It’s wonderful to see the support of this community.”
People who lived here, said Kim Newmann, were horrified by the shooting and then terrified for the two days the alleged assailant was on the run.
McCarthy, 39, was captured Tuesday evening walking on a rural road about 16 miles southeast of Clinton and booked into jail.
Michael had been shot twice in the chest with a rifle after he approached a vehicle on Missouri 13 that he stopped for a registration violation at about 10:45 p.m.
Michael’s death was the first time a Clinton officer died in the line of duty, stunning this town of about 9,000 people.
Police officers “are close friends and neighbors,” Kim Newmann said. She works part-time at Wal-Mart, and cops help there all the time, she said, and Steve Newmann drives a community bus and meets them everywhere.
“It really touched this community,” she said.