Thousands attend officer's funeral; 600 police cars in procession

lblackford@herald-leader.comMay 4, 2010 

Lexington police Officer Bryan J. Durman was laid to rest Tuesday, honored by hundreds of people who knew him and thousands more who did not.

His colleagues came in uniform from as far away as Knoxville and Henderson and as nearby as Berea, Danville and Richmond. They eulogized him as a kind man, a good officer and loving father, then took to the Lexington streets in a silent, somber procession of cars that stretched for miles. Thousands more people lined Lexington's streets under sparkling blue skies, standing quiet with hands over hearts to pay their respects to one of their protectors — and to wish him Godspeed.

It was a long day of mourning for Durman, 27, the first Lexington police officer to die in the line of duty in more than 20 years. He leaves behind his wife, Brandy and his 4-year-old son, Brayden.

Durman was killed Thursday in a hit-and-run on North Limestone. Police have charged Glenn R. Doneghy, the alleged driver of the vehicle that struck Durman, with murder. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.

By all accounts, Durman's life was one of service — to his country, which he served as part of the U.S. Air Force in two overseas expeditions; to his city, which he protected with his much-loved work as a policeman; most of all to his son and wife, who called him "the father that everyone wishes they had," a man who was "beyond good. He was great in every aspect of his life."

A perfect husband, father

The day — one week before Durman's 28th birthday — began at Southland Christian Church, where between 1,500 and 2,000 mourners listened to reminiscences from friends who remembered Durman as being "serious, competitive and funny."

He was described as a perfect husband and father who died doing what he loved to do — being a police officer.

Friends also remembered Durman's sense of humor, and his competitiveness, which sometimes joined up at Monopoly games, when he wouldn't let Brandy quit until the last dollar was gone.

Chief Ronnie Bastin talked about several awards that Durman had received, including an honor called The Lifesaving Award.

Police have said that on March 19, about 11 p.m., Durman and Officer Jason Wallace responded to a motorcycle wreck in North Lexington, where the severely injured victim was unresponsive. Both officers immediately started resuscitation, which they continued until medical technicians arrived.

That victim, Chester Salisbury, 56, attended Durman's funeral in a wheelchair, never having met the man who saved his life.

"My lungs were crushed," Salisbury said. "He put the air back in my lungs. That's what ... saved my life."

A flag, which was flown over the U.S. Capitol Building, was presented to Durman's family, and mourners listened to piano, acoustic guitar and a singer who performed Amazing Grace. The mourners then moved to their cars, forming a funeral cortege of police vehicles — lights blinking but sirens off — that traveled slowly from Southland Christian to Man O'War Boulevard to Richmond Road, through a largely quiet downtown where an enormous U.S. flag flew over Main Street, and back out Harrodsburg Road to the cemetery. The procession of 600 cars was so long, in fact, that its front cars reached Blue Grass Memorial Garden before Durman's hearse even entered downtown Lexington. The two-hour memorial ended by 3:45, allowing stalled traffic to start moving again. More than 100 intersections were blocked, many of them by visiting officers eager to help.

Many of the cars bore officers have a blue strip on their cruisers with Durman's badge number, 46600. His own cruiser was driven by a friend who returned from overseas duty to attend the funeral, officials said.

Some people had stood for an hour in the sun waiting to pay their respects. They lined streets and storefronts, some stopping their cars to get out and watch the procession pass.

Becky and Michael Seabolt, both retired Lexington police officers who live in Irvine, took their children Victoria, 4, and Alexander, 21 months, to Lexington Mall.

"We know that every day when you put on the uniform, you are making a choice" to possibly sacrifice your life, Becky Seabolt said.

"You are writing a blank check to the community," Michael Seabolt said.

There were several hundred people scattered around the pond in front of the mall. Most waited for more than an hour for the procession to begin. Davina Herron of Lexington stood near the pond and wiped tears from her eyes just thinking of the sacrifice the officer made.

"They just really put their lives on the line," she said. "It's just awful what happened."

By 1:30, Lexington resident Brenda Saenz had already set up her portable stool on the side of Main Street so she could honor Durman.

"The police do a great job for us," she said. "When we need them, they're there for us, so we should pay our respects to them."

About the same time, dozens of people, some carrying American flags, began lining up at the Blue Grass Memorial Gardens and in the Kroger shopping center across the street.

Kathy Bork was one of the first to arrive, sitting under the shade of a pine tree about noon, listening to the 17-member pipe band practicing Amazing Grace. Bork said it's important to show officers that the community appreciates their sacrifice.

"I just wanted to show my support for all officers," she said. "And I wanted to take a little time to pray for the family."

Retired Army Lt. David Ursmson said: "I know he put his life on the line for each one of us and just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart what he has done for us through the years."

By 4:15 p.m., the hearse arrived at Blue Grass Memorial Gardens, where the flag-draped coffin was placed on a carriage drawn by two white Percherons. They carried it across the cemetery to the bagpipe's plaintive wail of Oh Rowan Tree.

About 1,000 officers formed a wall of blue, brown and black; as the coffin was carried to the tent, the officers snapped to attention and saluted. By 5 p.m., the flag was taken off the coffin, a lone bugler played Taps as 21 guns saluted their fallen comrade. Durman will be interred in the mausoleum.

The music was replaced by the noise of four police helicopters that flew over top of the cemetery. As they reached the area, one of them broke off and flew north into the horizon, while the rest of the choppers continued west.

But the day was not quite over. Durman's colleagues had one more duty to perform for him, the traditional "last call" on the police radio.

"Thank you, sir, for your service," said a voice, almost steady, over the scanner. "Rest in peace. You will not be forgotten."

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