Procession a solemn reminder of dangers police face

BRIER – Rodney Rochon’s patrol car wouldn’t start.

The Snohomish County sheriff’s lieutenant didn’t have time for car trouble Wednesday afternoon.

A nearby tow truck driver pulled out jumper cables. Before long, he was ready to go.

Rochon eased his Ford Crown Victoria out of the parking lot at Westgate Chapel in Edmonds. He was about 20 vehicles behind the hearse that carried the casket of Brier police officer Edwanton “Eddie” Thomas.

Rochon was part of a 270-vehicle procession that wound through Edmonds, Brier and Lynnwood to honor Thomas.

He worried about lagging too far behind. It was his duty to escort Thomas’ family during the memorial and at the graveside services.

“It’s my job to make sure the family has what it needs,” Rochon said.

Rochon has served on the sheriff’s honor guard for years. Now the unit’s commander, he said he’s lost count of all the memorial services he’s attended for officers who have died in the line of duty.

The services are all about showing respect for the fallen officers and their families, he said.

Rochon left the chapel parking lot just before 2 p.m. He watched police officers on motorcycles block off every driveway and intersection along the route.

As he drove, he talked of the hundreds of police officers from around the Northwest who contacted him volunteering to help Brier officers in their time of grief and loss.

“It’s truly a sign of respect,” Rochon said.

The long line of police and fire vehicles moved at a steady 20 mph. They followed a route that purposefully traveled along roads Thomas had patrolled.

Some of the streets were winding and narrow. Rochon worried that motorcycle officers escorting the procession may not have enough room to pass the long stream of patrol cars. He knew most by name.

The procession rolled on, emergency lights reflecting off the wet roadway.

Rochon noticed people snapping photographs from their yards. He waved at the children who held up signs for Thomas.

He saw elderly men, their hats clutched to their chests, stand in the rain to nod at the passing police.

He saw tears mix with raindrops.

“I am amazed at how many people are out here in the rain to pay their respects,” he said.

Each memorial is a reminder of what it means to be a police officer, Rochon said.

“We all get up and go to work, and none of us think it will happen to us. These remind us that every day we walk out of the house, away from our families, there’s no guarantee we’re coming back,” he said.

It took about an hour for the funeral procession to reach the cemetery. Rochon parked outside the chapel.

He donned white gloves. It was time to care for family.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@

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