LAWRENCEBURG — Hundreds of law enforcement officers — including one from California — attended the funeral Monday for Kentucky State Police Trooper Eric Chrisman.
Chrisman, 23, was killed June 23 in Livingston County in Western Kentucky when his cruiser collided with a tractor-trailer on U.S. 62 near Grand Rivers. He was on his way to investigate a report of a reckless driver when the cruiser hydroplaned and went out of control. The Anderson County native had just graduated from the state police academy in January.
More than 400 uniformed officers, many of them Kentucky State Police, filed by the casket at Ninevah Christian Church north of Lawrenceburg. The church sanctuary seats about 750, but people stood along the walls of the packed hall.
State police and highway patrol officers from several states, including Alabama, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia, attended the service.
Perhaps the one to come the farthest was Assistant Chief Lenley Duncan of the California Highway Patrol's Central Division in Fresno, Calif.
"No far is too far to recognize the ultimate sacrifice that was paid by this Kentucky state trooper," Duncan said after the service.
During the service, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer said Chrisman made a decision early in life to lead "a purpose-driven life."
"You see, Trooper Eric Chrisman figured out at an early age what some people never figure out in a lifetime," Brewer said. "He figured out he wanted life with purpose, with meaning, with substance. You see, the purpose-driven life means being part of something that's greater than yourself. ... The purpose-driven life means helping others even at the cost of personal pain, at the cost of personal sacrifice."
On the six-mile drive to Sand Spring Cemetery south of Lawrenceburg, the funeral procession passed beneath two large American flags, one north of town, hoisted by a wrecker truck, the other south of town, held aloft by ladder trucks from the Lexington and Frankfort fire departments.
As the procession went through Lawrenceburg, residents watched. Many held their hands or caps across their chests, some held American flags, others recorded it with smartphones and tablets.
At the cemetery, a scene unfolded not unlike a memorable segment from the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire — the scene in which Olympic runner Eric Liddell speaks during a rainstorm and compares faith to running a race. Suddenly the rain stops, the sun shines and the umbrellas are folded.
In the same way, it was raining right before the graveside portion of the funeral. Hundreds of troopers got soaking wet as the rain poured down.
Then, as a saddled but riderless white horse was led past the grave, followed by two other mounted horses who clip-clopped behind, the rain stopped, the sun shone and the umbrellas were folded.
After a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, and the passing of five helicopters in V formation over the cemetery, a "last call" for trooper Chrisman, "Unit 800," was broadcast over a police radio.
"We will always remember your radiant smile," the female dispatcher said. "We will take it from here."