In Short: A touching honor.
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.
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.
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.
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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