Hundreds of vehicles in memorial procession from Vancouver to Ridgefield
By Paul Valencia and Paul Suarez
Chelsie Woodard was moving slowly, heading to her car from the 139th Street overpass that spans Interstate 5, using crutches because she has a fractured right foot.
She had to take a break every so often to catch her breath.
Oh, and she was doing this Tuesday just hours from being in a hospital, dealing with kidney stones.
“I would not have missed this for the world,” Woodard said. “It just hits home.”
Woodard was one of many residents who found a location to watch the procession of Sgt. Jeremy Brown of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Brown was killed in the line of duty on July 23.
On Tuesday, Brown’s life and service to the community were honored at a memorial at ilani Resort in Ridgefield. A procession that featured hundreds of law enforcement and first responder vehicles made its way from Clark College in Vancouver, north on Interstate 5, to the casino in Ridgefield.
Every overpass that was accessible to the public had more first responders and citizens. Some with flags. Others with signs. All with a message of love to Brown, his family, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, and the law enforcement community.
Woodard said two suspects involved in the death of Brown were apprehended in her neighbor’s yard in Vancouver. A third suspect, the one charged with killing Brown, was apprehended later in Salem, Ore.
Woodard said she wants justice, but she also said she was overjoyed that Brown’s memorial service and the procession on Tuesday were receiving so much love and attention.
This is Sgt. Brown’s day.
The day began at Clark College. Campus parking lots were full of vehicles, as city, county, state, and federal officials prepared to take the 17-mile journey to ilani.
“I can go up to any one of these men or women here, and we have an automatic bond just because of the job we do,” said Travis Elton, a police officer with The Dalles Police Department in Oregon. “It’s a brotherhood. It’s a sisterhood. It’s respect. We all know the sacrifices we make with family, with friends. To come here and show our respect to the ultimate sacrifice, it’s an honor to be here.”
This is not the first procession for Elton.
“I hate coming to these, but I feel it’s something we need to do,” he said. “We need to show our support.”
It is appreciated.
Andy Marvitz of the Ridgefield Police Department spoke for himself but likely echoed the thoughts of most of law enforcement in Clark County.
“When you have this many people come from all over … it really represents what this career and what this family looks like,” Marvitz said. “You have your brothers and sisters here who come from all over who knew him, who didn’t know him, (who) want to be able to show support for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the agencies here across Clark County. It means a lot to us all.”
The mourning for a fallen officer starts as soon as the shock of hearing the news.
“When things like this happen … your heart starts racing a little bit, and you start thinking about everyone you know,” Marvitz said. “You start making phone calls immediately, checking in on your brothers and sisters.”
Days later, the procession and memorial give more opportunities to grieve and support one another.
Marvitz said there are so many emotions involved, including pride. He, too, has been involved in other processions.
“You get to see members of the community lining the streets, lining the overpasses with flags,” Marvitz said. “It’s really powerful to see everyone out there and see the community come out and mourn with us.”
Tracy Hammerstaedt, who used to live in Vancouver but now lives in Beaverton, Ore., made the trip over the Columbia River to be there at Clark College to watch the start of the procession.
“These are important,” she said. “You need to show support for our community and the officers who put their lives on the line.”
Dan Dillon parked his motorcycle on Fort Vancouver Way and waited for the procession to start.
“To pay respect, to pay the proper respect for a man who gave his all for us,” Dillon said. “It’s important to show respect to the men and women who take on these jobs to protect us. If it weren’t for them, there would just be anarchy.”
Back on the 139th Street overpass, firefighters from Clark County Fire District 6 were on hand, some standing on their trucks, saluting the procession.
“We work with law enforcement every day. We’re working with them side by side,” said David Russell, assistant chief. “Any time there is a loss in the line of duty, we want to be out here to support our brothers and sisters in blue.”
Dozens of people were on the overpass, talking to each other as they waited for the procession. As soon as the freeway was cleared, and the first motorcycles appeared, all was quiet.
Northbound traffic was stopped to all others, allowing the 300 or so vehicles in the procession to proceed. Many drivers who were going southbound on the Interstate pulled over to the side of the freeway, stopping to pay their respects as well.
Tuesday was a day for Sgt. Brown, his family, and the law enforcement family.
From Vancouver to Ridgefield, the community saluted all of them.