Law enforcement and community members remembered the life of Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin DeRosier during a packed memorial service in Portland Wednesday.
DeRosier was killed two weeks ago in the line of duty.
His funeral procession departed Longview, Washington, Wednesday morning and arrived at the University of Portland — overseen along the way by area residents and police officers on freeway overpasses.
In Portland, hundreds of law enforcement, firefighters and other uniformed personnel gathered to honor DeRosier.
Washington’s Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers was the first to speak at DeRosier’s service. DeRosier started his law enforcement career in Whitman County in 2011.
“As we escorted Justin out of Kelso today down I-5 and into Portland, I was moved by the massive showing of support and respect along the long and somber route,” Myers said. “In my 17 years as sheriff, this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.”
James Kelly, police chief of Woodland, Washington, knew DeRosier for most of his life, even coaching him in baseball when he was 5-years-old.
“I was excited to see who he was going to be,” Kelly said when he heard that DeRosier was going into law enforcement.
Kelly was one of the officers to respond to the scene when DeRosier was shot April 13.
“It was probably the longest ride of my life,” he said.
Kelly also said he was the one who had to inform DeRosier’s family of the shooting.
“It was then I realized, Cowlitz County had lost one of the finest officers I had ever known,” Kelly said. “He had made the ultimate sacrifice for citizens of Cowlitz County. … The impact of that will be felt for years.”
Speakers during the memorial spoke about DeRosier’s big personality.
“Justin was relentless in his desire to be better, to do more, to learn more,” Cowlitz County Undersheriff Darren Ullmann said. “He had the type of personality that made you feel like old friends.
“He brought us together as a community and he continues to do so.”
Cpl. Rey Reynolds with the Vancouver Police Department didn’t know DeRosier personally but said he did know him in a way “because he’s a brother in arms.”
Reynolds said he’s still reflecting on the memorial of another fallen officer in Washington. Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ryan Thompson died during a March shootout with a suspect.
“This is getting very close to home,” Reynolds said. “We just had a funeral just a little bit ago, and now we’re having another one — all within a span of what, two months? It is a traumatic event for all these officers that you see here because they know at any time it could be them.”
DeRosier is survived by his wife and infant daughter, among other family members.
On Monday, his sister Jenna gave a statement about his death.
“Law enforcement was more than just his job, it was his calling,” Jenna said. “I truly believe that had Justin known that that call was his last, he would have still gone. He was that kind of man.”