Matthew Gerald’s funeral took place at Healing Place Church on Highland Road in Baton Rouge where around 3 thousand people gathered to honor his early departure, including law enforcement officers from New York, California, and other states. The 41-year-old police officer was shot and killed on duty on Sunday. The killer was former U.S. Marine, and his actions are under investigation.

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, police leaders, family and friends honored Gerald at his funeral after his unexpected death. Law enforcement officers from Indiana, New York, California and other states came to salute the fallen officer.

The 41 year old police officer, Matthew Gerald, passed away on Sunday after a shooting in Baton Rouge. His funeral took place at Healing Place Church on Highland Road. Photo credit: BRPD / Nola
The 41-year-old police officer, Matthew Gerald, passed away on Sunday after a shooting in Baton Rouge. His funeral took place at Healing Place Church on Highland Road. Photo credit: BRPD / Nola

At the funeral, Mayor Holden called Americans to quit the “us vs. them” mentality that only encourages violence, and said that police officers respect citizens, and they also deserved respect.

Fox News reports that Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr responded to the constant critics to the police force that had followed numerous videos of police officers attacking and killing black people. Chief Dabadie said that the media is creating a wrong image of what police do, and it is portraying law enforcement as a band of bullies who go around and hurt people. 

“We’re not bullies. We are protecting our communities. And they throw us under the bus for it. And that’s wrong,” Dabadie added.

Matthew Gerald was married to Dechia Gerald, who is now a widow and mother of 2 young girls. She referred to her husband as her “blue-eyed-rock” in a written tribute. Dechia Gerald expressed that she hopes her husband’s death will bring people together to foster peace in the country Matthew lived, loved and died for.

Other of the people present at the funeral was Gerald’s childhood friend Dave Mulkey, who had texted him the day he was shot to warned him about being careful due to the tensions rose after the video of the death of Alton Sterling. Sterling was shot outside his place of work where he sold CDs. Witnesses inside a car in the parking lot recorded the moment where two law-enforcement officers put down Sterling and after finding a gun, even though Sterling was subdued and the video shows no aggressive behavior on his part, one of the two officers shot him dead.

The two officers involved in Alton Sterling´s death were put on administrative leave, and the case is being investigated.

Dave Mulkey says he wrote to Gerald to be careful and to keep a cool head during the protests that were triggered by Sterling´s death.

“I’m going to do what I got to do to keep you all safe, old boy,” Gerald responded.

A not so peaceful morning in Baton Rouge

Matthew Gerald police partner, Cpl. Lester Mitchell, a black man with 11 years in the police force, said they were talking about the recent madness that had taken the country after the videos of black people being killed by law enforcement officers and the tragic Dallas shooting against the police. They were discussing how much all those situations were putting a strain on the community and police relations, said Mitchell as reported by the CBS News.

Cpl. Mitchell stated that they had started writing reports at the police headquarters Sunday when Gerald went to the B-Quick store that is near the station to get an energy drink.

The CBS News says that Mitchell told that at the store someone told Gerald that an armed man was walking through the area, and Mitchell says his partner radioed for help. Mitchell arrived at the scene with another police officer, but gunfires had already been shot, and Matthew Gerald was already hit.

Matthew Gerald became a Baton Rouge police officer less than a year ago. He was a rookie at age 41 in the police force, but he had served four years in the Marines and seven years in the Army.

According to the CBS News, J.D. Leach, commander of the police academy, recalled asking Gerald why he wanted to join the force.

“I’ve been serving my country and now it’s time to serve my community,” Gerald responded, according to Leach.

Fox News reports that Gerald was paired with Lester Mitchell on July 1. His tragic death ended his promising career as Baton Rouge officer.

Matthew Gerald received a well-deserved hero’s goodbye

Gerald was described by friends in the Force and the Army as a true patriot. The American flag was folded, and his two uniforms hung next to it. Photos of him showing his family life, his 11 years in the army and his short career as a police officer were portrayed on a big screen during the funeral.

Sheriff’s deputy Brad Garafola and police officer Montrell Jackson, the two other men, fallen in the Baton Rouge shooting, are going to be honored on Saturday and Monday.

The Advocate reported that Chief Dabadie said that killing of Gerald, Garafola, and Jackson are one of the heaviest burdens of his life and career.

Source: CBS News