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Officers honor slain colleague

 


Just 10 years after he graduated in traditional cap and gown from Harlem High School, the body of Joshua Raven Chief Rutherford was carried into the school in a coffin Monday wearing the uniform of a Blaine County sheriff's deputy.

More than 1,000 people turned out to honor Rutherford, who was shot to death Thursday while responding to a domestic disturbance call in Harlem. Deputy Loren Janis was wounded during the incident.

Laurence Dean Jackson Jr., 25, of Harlem has been charged with deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide in connection with the shooting.

About 300 fellow law enforcement officers attended Rutherford's funeral Monday morning, representing dozens of different agencies.

They wore black tape over their badges, a symbol of mourning for a fallen comrade. They came from all across the state, from as close as Fort Belknap to as far away as Billings and Bozeman, to honor a man that most of them had never met.

They filed into the gymnasium in silence. In two columns they flanked each side of the basketball court where Rutherford's casket was placed, a silent reminder of the dangers of their profession.

"It amazes me how close law enforcement is," Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer John Grinsell said of the funeral. "We have people here from all across the state. Probably every county is represented. We put aside our differences to say goodbye to a friend."

The funeral service consisted of a Catholic Mass as well as Native American funeral traditions. Singers from the Running Child drum group at Fort Belknap sang a Raven song during the ceremony, honoring Rutherford's spirit. Rutherford's casket was adorned with a feathered headdress as well as a folded American flag.

Delivering the eulogy was Henry Webb, bureau chief of the Montana Law Enforcement Academy where Rutherford taught defensive tactics.

Law enforcement is "the last and only true warrior class left in society," Webb said. He likened Rutherford's death to that of the character Hector in the literary classic "The Iliad." In the epic, Hector leaves his son to fight one final battle that he knows will end in his death. Rutherford left his oldest son, 11-year-old Thomas, at home to help his partner respond to the domestic disturbance that led to his death, Webb said.

"Josh, you lived the warrior's principles. You died the warrior's death," he said. "And we will sing songs about you."

Thomas, wearing the jersey of his father's beloved Denver Broncos, made a few short remarks following the eulogy.

"I am very proud of my dad," he said. "He is my idol."

Rutherford was married twice and had four sons: Thomas; Joshua Teague, 6; Matthew, 4; and Michael, 1.

After the funeral, law enforcement honored the fallen deputy with a final salute. Each officer in attendance walked past the casket and saluted Rutherford during an emotional ceremony during which some of Rutherford's favorite songs were played.

Deputy Janis, wearing a cast on his wounded arm, led the procession. He was escorted by Blaine County Sheriff Glenn Huestis. The pair paused briefly to salute and say goodbye to their friend before leaving the gymnasium. So numerous were the officers at the funeral that the procession lasted more than half an hour.

Rutherford was laid to rest facing the Milk River Valley at the Pony Hill Cemetery about 12 miles east of Harlem on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

"It makes me think about my family and how short life can be," said Browning police officer Justine Fry. "I just want to do my best and go home safe each night."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

 

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