Law enforcement officers escort Clinton police officer Ryan Morton to be laid to rest
If slain Clinton Police Officer Ryan Morton could have joined his own funeral Monday, he'd still be there hours on hours later, "talking your ear off," those who knew him would say.
Just like he'd get stuck at Chiefs and Royals games talking to strangers he met in the concession line, he'd want to know the stories of all these people, more than a thousand, who came inside from the flitting snowflakes on a chilling, overcast March morning.
"He came back with their life story and selfies," close friend and fellow Clinton Police Officer Derek Foreman said, remembering one of Morton's gregarious moments.
A crowd that included hundreds of law enforcement officers from near and far laughed, which is what Morton would have wanted, Foreman said. "He'd tell us to cheer up and smile, and remember all the great memories we share together."
But tears came as well behind the precise and practiced solemnity of a uniformed service member's funeral in Clinton, a town of 9,000 people that was grieving the second loss of one of its officers in seven months.
Morton, 30, was one of three Clinton police officers shot March 6 after being dispatched on a 911 call to a home at 306 W. Grandriver St. in Clinton. The man who fired at them also died during the incident, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol, which is investigating. The other two officers were wounded but survived.
Later, authorities discovered there was a mix-up, and the 911 call had actually come from Windsor, Mo., about 20 miles away.
Officer Gary Michael was killed in Clinton in August during a traffic stop.
"This community has seen tragedy," Gov. Eric Greitens told the overflow crowd. Greitens also spoke at Michael's funeral. "Your entire state stands with you," he said, "in your grief, in your pride and in your love for Ryan."
The songs his family chose were purposeful as a slide show of Morton's life unfurled on a screen at Clinton's Benson Convention Center.
"Can you lay your life down so a stranger can live? Can you take what you need, but take less than you give...?"
"I'm only one call away, I'll be there to save the day. Superman's got nothing on me..."
They saw the images of a child who grew up loving baseball and outdoor sports, mischievous and wild. They saw him embraced in family. They saw him in uniform — an officer's uniform — and as a U.S. Army National Guardsman with his camouflage-clad mates, or posed alone with the backdrop of Afghanistan's stark and barren vistas.
"Ryan was real," his former pastor, Roger Brant said. "He was authentic. He was not pretentious at all ... (and) he was a servant. It's not what he did. It was who he was."
Morton served in the armed forces in two tours overseas before becoming a police officer. He joined the Clinton police department in 2015, left in late 2016 for a job as a federal police officer at the Veterans Affairs Police Department in Kansas City, but returned to Clinton last year.
Morton's uncle, Brian Bennett, shared the family's joy for so many people who came to remember Morton and "to honor what he stood for, what he lived for and what he believed."
At the visitation held in the same facility the night before, it took four hours for all the people to file through, who came with so much to share, Bennett said.
They ranged from the officers and the troops who had served with him, who came with "the deepness in their eyes," Bennett said, to people who maybe only met him at a coffee shop, "but he made an impact on your lives."
After the eulogies and memories, the service became a vast procession. Law officers, with black stripes across their badges, many of them with Morton's number, 319, on them, led the way.
The funeral procession then departed for the Knob Noster Cemetery in Morton's hometown. The vast array of law enforcement cars, SUVS and motorcycles led a red-and-blue-lighted caravan that took more than hour to head out of Clinton.
They carried Clinton Deputy Police Chief Sonny Lynch's promise with them.
"We came after you that night," Lynch said to Morton's casket about the night of his death, when officers tried to save him from the gunman who shot him. "We came too late. But we'll come again, one at a time.
"Find Gary (Michael)," he said, "and wait for us brother. We will come. We will not quit."