LIVE VIDEO: Memorial for Fallen Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier

Thousands are expected for a memorial service in North Portland for the deputy killed in the line of duty earlier this month

COWLITZ COUNTY — Thousands are expected to pack the Chiles Center on the campus of the University of Portland this afternoon to celebrate the life and sacrifice of Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier.

Motorcycles from law enforcement agencies across Washington State gather as an honor guard ahead of a memorial procession for Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier. Photo by Mike Schultz
Motorcycles from law enforcement agencies across Washington State gather as an honor guard ahead of a memorial procession for Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier. Photo by Mike Schultz

The 29-year old was shot on April 13 while responding to a call about an abandoned vehicle on a narrow road in Kalama.

“Shots fired, I’m hit,” came the chilling call over the radio, repeated a short time later. A Kalama police officer who was first on scene described DeRosier on his knees, blood on his chest. He was able to describe the man who shot him, and tell them which he’d gone before being taken to a waiting ambulance and rushed to PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver.

DeRosier passed away in the early morning hours of April 14.

Twenty-four hours later the man believed to have shot Deputy DeRosier died himself in a shootout with police. Brian Butts, the half-brother of Daniel Butts who shot Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter in 2011, had a long criminal history. A second man, Matthew Veatch, faces charges of helping Butts ditch the weapon used in the shooting, and hiding him in a barn near his property.

The death of Deputy DeRosier sparked a wave of grief throughout Southwest Washington and beyond. He was the first Cowlitz County Deputy killed in the line of duty in the department’s 165-year history.

The 2008 Kelso High School graduate was drawn to law enforcement early on. His grandmother told The Seattle Times DeRosier was fascinated by the show “Cops” and watched any chance he got. He majored in Criminal Justice at Washington State University and interned at the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office.

DeRosier returned to Cowlitz County in 2016 to take a job with the sheriff’s office. He married Katherine Ann Smart and the two had a daughter, Naomi, in 2018. She is six-months old.

The outpouring of support for DeRosier and his family was immediate and profound. Fundraisers by businesses in Cowlitz County raised tens of thousands. Flowers and other tributes have piled up in front of DeRosier’s patrol vehicle, parked in front of the sheriff’s office building.

Last week, hundreds lined freeway overpasses from Vancouver to Kelso as DeRosier’s body was transported home. Thousands are expected to gather today to celebrate his life, and the ultimate sacrifice for any law enforcement officer.

“It’s a big shock. It’s rough,” said Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman days after the shooting. “We just don’t know how to do this. We hope we don’t have to do it again.”

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