What It’s Like to
Drive in a Cop’s Funeral Motorcade

in ,

In Short: A touching honor.

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Read Time: 3 minutes

I heard the ambulance paged out for a severe accident. Out of my response area, but hearing details I alerted my wife, a deputy coroner, that her services may be needed.

One of the problems of working EMS in a rural area: sometimes you know the patient. The man killed was Scott Mills, the sergeant at the police department in our county seat, Ouray, Colorado. My wife had worked a case with him the night before, and had said that with his long experience, she always learns things when she works with him. I had worked with him some too; he wasn’t a friend in the sense that we socialized together, but we knew each other and worked well together.

Lining up near the mortuary. My “quick response vehicle” is second in this line, while one of our paramedics heads up to chat. (Photo: Randy Cassingham)

His chief decided he wanted a formal police officer’s funeral for this lifelong lawman, and the EMS chief wanted as many of us who could to be part of his funeral procession. We lined up near the mortuary in our dress white uniforms and waited for it to start. There were police cars from all over the state, and even other states.

When the time finally came, we all got in line. An escort squad car from Scott’s department, the hearse, any family, then the rest of the department’s officers, other law enforcement officers from our county, all of our EMS units, a few fire trucks, and then visiting agencies.

The line behind me. (Photo: Randy Cassingham)

In all, I think the motorcade was around a mile long, and we had a ways to go: the mortuary was at the north end of town, the church where the funeral was to be held at the south end. State troopers were at every traffic light to keep the line moving, safely disregarding any red lights. All emergency vehicles had their lights on, but no sirens: it was eerily quiet, almost surreal, to be in that line.

Choking Up

What really hit me, though, was that all along the way, shopkeepers came out of their stores to bear silent witness. People who had been stopped by troopers got out of their cars to stand up for Scott too: many had their hats or hands over their hearts. Veterans saluted. I was choked up to see it.

You can see an example very briefly in this snippet from my dashcam video, on the first turn (no sound):

Once the funeral was over, it all repeated: from the church to the cemetery, which was not too far. It was a chilly, blustery day.

We recently had a short fifth anniversary ceremony marking his death at the intersection where Scott was killed. His chief, now our sheriff, presided. It was a chilly, blustery day.

Sgt. Mills served six years in the U.S. Air Force, 16 years with the Los Alamos County, N.M., Sheriff’s Dept., and two years in Albuquerque before coming to Ouray. All of those sent representatives.

It was an honor to be among those paying respect to Scott, but what I’ll remember most is the people along the road, hands over hearts, who didn’t even know who they were honoring. With the parade of vehicles all they knew was, it must be a police officer.

Randy Cassingham is WiLt’s head writer and publisher. His flagship publication This is True, established in 1994, is the oldest entertainment feature on the Internet.

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5 thoughts on “Drive in a Cop’s Funeral Motorcade”

  1. I have ridden in countess processions like this one. For years I rode with the Patriot Guard, usually as a road guard. Some rides were short and some were hours long. Some had only a handful of bikers in the procession and others had hundreds of bikers.

    For every ride, we were all there to pay our respects to a fallen hero and to support the family. I remember one ride in particular. There was about forty of us and we were escorting a fallen soldier from the airport to the funeral home. Once we arrived at the funeral home, all the bikers stood in a line along the driveway. We were asked to remain in place until the soldier’s mother came out to thank us for being there.

    It took about an hour before she came out, but each of us remained in place. I was near one end of the line and when she came out she headed straight for the end opposite me. All I could see was that she would stop and talk to each biker. She slowly made her way down to my end of the line. I didn’t know what she was saying to each person but in my mind I was thinking of how I was going to respond to whatever she said to me.

    But when she got to me, she didn’t say anything. Instead, she just stared at me for a moment and then suddenly threw her arms around me and started sobbing. All I could do was hold her. Within seconds every single one of those big, burly bikers was surrounding us in a big group hug. I think each of us was crying at that moment.

    Over the years I’ve been in many difficult situations, working with people that just lost loved ones, jobs and homes. I can deal with quite a bit, but I still tear up when I think about that one ride and the mother’s reaction when she got to me.

    Makes me think she “saw” her son in you. I can see why it was so memorable — and how you get a warm feeling as you recall it. -rc

  2. Very beautiful, moving story. I am sobbing and crying in CA. Wilt is my favorite new thing to read. Your dash cam photos were amazing, can you provide any details about brand, etc. I had one a few years ago, but the clarity was nothing like yours. Blessings to you and Kit for all you do for your community.

    I’m glad you like the site. Unfortunately the cam, which I really like, is discontinued — always the way, eh? See my Recommended page on This is True for my current thoughts (long page, so you can search for ‘dashcam’ to jump to that section).

  3. Last week we had an NC State Trooper die from Covid-19. He was well liked in our small town, played at the same golf course I did and left a wife and kids. He died at UNC-Chapel Hill Hospital which is 60 miles from home. The hearse was escorted by NC Highway Patrol Troopers and Deputy Sheriff’s and local police escorted them through their jurisdictions. Fire and EMS lined every exit, bridge and overpass through four counties. I’m retired from EMS and wasn’t involved, but happened to be on the highway when they passed by. Heartbreaking and sad.

  4. My experience wasn’t a law officer, but similar funeral procession in some ways. My second cousin was 16 and a student pilot. The plane he and the instructor were flying crashed into the side of a mountain and burst into flames. My cousin was thrown clear, but he went back to the plane to try to pull his instructor out. He was so badly burned, his hands were almost entirely gone. The instructor was dead at the scene, my cousin died a few days later.

    The family lived in Monticello, NY, a small city in the Catskills. My cousin’s father owned an air conditioning firm that served most of the businesses in the county, and was known and liked by almost everybody in the county. Hundreds turned out for the funeral. The procession from the synagogue to the cemetery also stretched well over a mile, with police escorts and troopers stopping cross traffic. It will be 50 years in September, but I still remember it vividly.

  5. I missed being in a police motorcade, and was grateful that I did. On Dec 21st, 1994 my sister’s ex-husband, an LA Co. safety officer, was shot & killed as I delivered my oldest child. We found out the next day; his parents found out by being publicly paged at Disneyland where they were with his children. I think because of the time of year, the response to his death was enormous. The funeral procession from Santa Monica to the cemetery in Whittier snarled traffic on the I10 freeway for miles. The line of vehicles seemed endless when viewed from the overhead traffic helicopter on TV. My sister said it took an hour for all the vehicles to pass by (admittedly going pretty slowly on the cemetery grounds). I cannot imagine what it was like for her & my 7yo niece. I felt vaguely guilty for not supporting a family member more directly, but have never wished that I had participated. I do appreciate the respect shown to a ‘brother officer’ by all those who did from across the greater LA area.


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