Hundreds of first responders line interstate for procession of fallen officers

Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 5:37 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Less than three months after a similar procession was held for fallen officer Michael Chandler, law enforcement agencies across the commonwealth came together Thursday to hold a procession along 81 North for Officers Vashon “JJ” Jefferson and John Painter. Other than the sound of rain hitting cars and the pavement, it was a silent affair.

Before the hearses rounded the curves of the Medical Examiner’s parking lot in Roanoke, family members of John Painter cried and hugged, gearing up for what might be the hardest 100 miles of their lives. The family for Officer Jefferson was too emotional to come to Roanoke.

”We’re telling stories about them right now, great stories of the men that they were and the legacy that they’re gonna leave behind,” said Chief Phillip Read, the chief of police for the town of Bridgewater.

Read says the last 48 hours have been tough, but the community of Bridgewater and surrounding communities are tougher.

Local alumnus, and current lieutenant for the Roanoke Police Department R.A Robinson, is still grappling with the tragedy happening.

“You know faith in humanity is a little torn, because you just didn’t worry about any sort of violence or crime there, we used to leave our backpacks on campus and come back and get them at the end of the day, so this was a really big deal for a lot of people,” said Robinson.

And that’s why a big deal was made out of the procession. Each ramp along 81 from Roanoke to Bridgewater closed as the hearses passed: a symbol of solidarity among first responders.

“They’ll be remembered as heroes. What they did on Tuesday, no question they saved lives. And they’ll always be remembered as heroes. In each and everyone of those who knew them as well as all the people watching across the state and the nation. These guys weren’t just ordinary people,” said Read.

As of now, the funerals have not been planned for either man.

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