PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An honor guard of law enforcement agencies from around North America, a lone trumpet call and a marching band of bagpipers set the tone for the memorial for slain Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier.
Thousands of people filed into the Chiles Center at the University of Portland for the service that began at 1 p.m., slightly more than 2 hours after a procession brought his body from Longview to Portland.
As an honor guard of law enforcement officers stood solemnly behind the podium, Officer Adele O’Rourke of the Renton Police Department sang both the Canadian and US national anthems.
Justin DeRosier, 29, left behind a wife and a 5-month-old daughter. He will be laid to rest in a private ceremony following the public memorial service.
A live video viewing was also held at New Life Church at 2441 42nd Avenue in Longview.
Kelso School District canceled classes for the day.
“Deputy DeRosier is a much-loved member of our Hilander family,” Superintendent Mary Beth Tack said in a statement. “His strong heart and ultimate service will always be remembered.”
DeRosier attended Butler Acres Elementary, Coweeman Middle School, and was a 2008 Kelso High graduate.
Brett Myers, the sheriff of Whitman County, Washington was the first speaker. Whitman County is where DeRosier began his career in 2011. “This is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but also one of the greatest honors to talk about Justin DeRosier.”
He was one-of-a-kind and larger than life, fun to be around and never complained.
Woodland Police Department Chief James Kelly stepped to the podium and issued an immediate disclaimer: “I’m not sure I’m gonna make it all the way through.”
It became apparent why as he choked up during prepared remarks. He got a call from Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman around 1 a.m. on April 14 with the news about Justin.
“I quickly responded to the scene. It was probably the longest drive of my life,” he said.
Kelly said he’s known DeRosier’s parents for years, and was the one who broke the news to them. And then Sheriff Thurman asked him to tell DeRosier’s grandparents.
He shared stories of Justin DeRosier and wrapped up with a short, eloquent statement.
“Rest well, my son.”
Cowlitz County Undersheriff Darren Ullmann spoke fondly of DeRosier, and said we need more people like him.
“He faced danger with undaunting courage,” Ullman said. “We all love being cops, and so did Justin.”
As with others he spoke of the fun-loving, outgoing nature Justin had, that larger-than-life quality some people just possess.
Describing Justin, Ullmann said “It’s OK to give people shit as long as you’re willing to get it back in return. It’s OK to be a little husky but not to be a Huskie.”
April 15 was the 5-year anniversary of his graduation from the academy, Ullmann said.
“If you had told him that day he would be killed in the line of duty within 5 years, he would have pushed you aside. Then he would have been pissed off you interrupted his moment.”
Michael Kingsley, who described himself as being “lucky enough to be among his closest friends,” shared heartfelt and touching stories of Justin. But he also shared some lighthearted things about his friend, including:
— “With Justin behind the wheel, Papa’s truck will go 95 mph.”
— “Dirt bikes do not float.”
— “It’s never too late to launch a boat.”
— “I’m pretty sure Justin works for Snapchat.”
After the benediction, the Seattle Police bagpipers returned for an emotional rendition of “Amazing Grace” as thousands of people stood silently.
An honor guard ceremonially folded the US flag that was draped on his casket and presented to his wife. Trumpeters followed with Taps, and the call for DeRosier’s “end of watch” was given.
His casket was escorted out of the Chiles Center around 3 p.m. for a private burial ceremony.
‘Always wanted to be a cop’
Justin DeRosier is the first Cowlitz County deputy to die in the line of duty in the county’s 165 years. He was responding to a report of a disabled motorhome on Fallert Road in Kalama late on April 13 when he was fatally wounded by Brian Butts, who was killed in a confrontation with Kelso police officers the next night.
Speaking for the first time since the Cowlitz County deputy died, the DeRosier family on Monday said law enforcement was his calling.
“Justin always wanted to be a cop and he was the best one I knew,” his sister Jenna said. “He loved going to work every single day.”
The president of the Behind the Badge Foundation, Sgt. Brian Johnston, said the community knows “these officers, these deputies by name, by face. And not just once or twice, so there’s that personal sense of loss each one of us feels.”
Johnston said Behind the Badge coordinated with agencies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.
“When we have a law enforcement officer’s death, we can count on several thousand people who want to be part of that,” he said last week.
DeRosier graduated from Kelso High School in 2008 and Washington State University in 2012. He stayed in Pullman as a deputy with the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office until he returned home in 2016. He was a member of the SWAT team in Whitman and was slated to join the Cowlitz County drug task force this summer.
Sheriff Brad Thurman said DeRosier’s family is prominent in the community. His grandmother Darlene DeRosier was the county auditor for years and his family owns a gravel business in Kelso.