A sparkling sea of red and blue lights carried slain Clinton police officer Gary Lee Michael Jr. from his funeral to his burial ground Saturday.
In a vast show of support, more than 250 vehicles from at least 150 different law enforcement and public safety agencies drawn from at least four states led a hundred more cars and trucks in a 40-minute-long procession through this western Missouri town.
The crowd for Michael’s funeral, inside and outside Clinton’s Benson Center, far exceeded a 1,000 people.
“I hope you feel the tremendous prayers and love of this city … state and country,” Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said to Michael’s family as he joined in the eulogies from the stage.
“Let us dedicate ourselves,” he said, to the hallmarks of Michael’s life: “Service, courage, sacrifice, honor and duty.”
Michael, 37, was gunned down Aug. 6 night by a driver he had pulled over for a traffic stop.
Many people at Saturday’s funeral broke into tears as a new song by Chase Curl played with the words illuminated on a screen, retelling the town’s despair at the loss of the officer who was “Badge 321.”
“Strapped in his vest, the badge of honor pinned to his chest,” goes the song, “321 called in a traffic stop …”
“Days go by, and all we hear is ‘Officer down.’ ”
“The blood of the blue runs through this town,” the song went on. “321, God bless your soul. We’ll take it from here while you go home.”
They cried for a man who, his younger brother Chris Michael told the crowd, had just found “the love of his life” in wife, Cindy, less than two years ago, and then his dream job as a Clinton police officer less than a year ago.
“With his heart full of love,” he said, “he could pursue his dream job.”
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. Aug. 6.
Michael’s death marked the first time a Clinton officer died in the line of duty, stunning this town of about 9,000 people.
The police officers in Clinton “are close friends and neighbors,” said Kim Newmann of Clinton, who joined motorcyclists from across many states with the Patriot Guard Riders who came to help line the streets around the funeral service.
Tears cam to her eyes as she saw how her Clinton community and its neighbors have come together, beneath a giant U.S. flag hanging over Price Lane and the procession that would pass by outside the community center.
“I’m very proud,” she said. “When I came under that flag, it was indescribable. … It really touched this community.”
Patrick Quinn came from Dixon, Ill., with his comfort dog, Shiloh, as part of the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, one of many cross-country travelers in Clinton Saturday.
“This tells me there are still a lot of people who support our law enforcement officers,” he said. “Fallen officers are dear to us.” To the family and the community, he said, he and so many others gathered outside “bring the Lord’s peace.”
The tributes to Michael reflected both his dedication to public service, as well as his love for family, fishing, hunting and skiing.
Officers in all shades of dark blues and grays, in full dress uniforms with shined hats and gold shoulder braids sat among the crowd, seeing the smiling Michael on screen.
Luke Bryan’s country song, “Drink a Beer,” played in the background with images of Michael lakeside with a fishing pole, or dressed in hunting cammo.
“When I got the news today, I didn’t know what to say,” Bryan’s song said. “I can’t believe you’re really gone…”
And as pictures of sunsets and boats shown on the screen, with Michael and his family, the song sang of how nothing made sense.
“So I’m gonna sit right here on the edge of this pier, watch the sunset disappear … and drink a beer.”
The funeral’s officiating preacher, Randy Shipman, sent everyone out, honoring Michael and all the law enforcement officers who came to be with him, saying, “Your commitment to our communities is unparalleled.
“We are deeply grateful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”