After the hearse passed with a wake of law enforcement vehicles, Ridgefield resident Jerry Jones said he took pride in watching it from the highway overpass. The 60-year-old said he stood there for his family and friends who couldn’t get time away Tuesday morning.
“These men, they leave their families every morning to protect our families,” Jones said. “They’re the ones we call on no matter what the situation.”
Jones stood less than a mile from a memorial honoring Clark County Sheriff’s Office Det. Jeremy Brown. Brown died July 23 while investigating suspects in a firearms heist. During the investigation at an apartment complex in east Vancouver, one of the suspects confronted and shot Brown in the chest.
The memorial Tuesday started with the procession, witnessed by many like Jones who watched from freeway overpasses. It wound from the Clark College campus in Vancouver, along Interstate 5, and ultimately to ilani Casino Resort.
People waved flags or handmade signs to pay respect to the detective, who became the second Clark County deputy since 2004 to die in the line of duty. Law enforcement officers and firefighters likewise stood with vehicles alight to pay tribute. Officials estimated about 300 emergency vehicles took part in the procession.
Kyra Spencer, whose husband is a sheriff’s deputy in neighboring Cowlitz County, said Brown’s death impacted hers and other law enforcement families. She stood across the road from the casino as the procession drove past.
Spencer said line-of-duty deaths always resurface the dangers of the job. In 2019, Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier was fatally shot responding to a complaint at a motor home.
“If someone is killed, we’ve lost a family member also. These are husbands and fathers, and moms and sisters, and brothers,” said Spencer, 36. “When you have a loss like that, we need to support them.”
At the casino’s events venue, officials estimated more than 2,500 people attended the memorial. Brown’s children, wife and sister described him as the family’s glue, someone who was passionate about being outdoors and diving headlong into new passions, like sailing. He was a grandfather of seven, his son, Gage Brown noted.
“The camera roll on his phone was nothing but happy, beautiful babies, and he was pretty proud of that,” Gage Brown said. “Dad was perceptive and had a very special way of connecting with people. I know this served him well as a father, husband and friend. But would imagine it found a way to benefit him in his professional life as well.”
Brown joined the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in August 2007, according to state records. He had stints working with the Washington Department of Corrections and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office in Montana. He was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Brown spent the last four years as a detective on a drug task force with sheriff’s deputies and officers from the Vancouver Police Department. Last October, Brown and two other deputies shot and killed 19-year-old Kevin Peterson Jr. during an attempted drug sting. The shooting remains under review by prosecutors in Pierce County.
It’s unclear if Brown was working in his capacity with the drug task force the night he died. Court records indicate a separate task force had called the drug task force to help investigate a trio of suspects in a large firearms burglary.
The undercover officers had tracked the suspected thieves — who reportedly pilfered approximately 30 guns from a storage unit in June — from Castle Rock, Washington, to Portland on July 23, according to court records. At some point, Brown joined the investigation and was conducting surveillance when Guillermo Raya-Leon reportedly shot him.
Raya-Leon, 26, is charged with first-degree aggravated murder. He made his first appearance in Clark County Superior Court on Thursday.
Two of Brown’s supervisors spoke at the memorial: Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins and Chief Criminal Deputy John Horch. Atkins lamented he could have known Brown better outside of work, but noted Brown’s reputation as a friendly coworker and a role model was well-known in the agency.
“You felt just how much he loved and cared for others,” Atkins said. “He loved the sheriff’s office, but you really felt his love when you talked to him about his family.”
Horch drew laughs with stories of Brown’s confusing sayings — like calling someone “sharp as a hawk” — and noted Brown intended to be an advocate for law enforcement once he hit retirement. Horch said Brown wanted to write a book that would “tell the truth about the state of law enforcement.”
“He felt that law enforcement personnel were not allowed to speak openly, but when he retired he was going to shout it from the mountaintops,” Horch said. “Jeremy does not get to enjoy retirement. He was murdered for doing his job. Murdered while trying to take guns off the street. And he’s earned the right to be heard, and so he will be now.”
Horch then said Brown was “extremely concerned” with new police accountability laws that went into effect in Washington on July 25. He encouraged the crowd to “get out of (their) comfort zone and start getting involved.”
“Jeremy is asking. I guarantee you he’s asking this. Law enforcement is asking,” Horch said. “Don’t let this be another law enforcement funeral that you’re just sad about.”