Hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the country streamed past the casket Monday of a slain Baton Rouge police officer, some solemnly saluting and others making the sign of the cross as they paid their respects and mourned one of their own.
Montrell Jackson, slain by a gunman who authorities said targeted law enforcement, is the last of the three Louisiana law enforcement officers killed in last week's ambush to be buried.
Michael Fendrick, a sheriff's deputy from Dakota County, Minnesota, was among those officers who traveled to the service as part of an honor guard team. He'd been at the two other funerals as well.
"They're always difficult," Fendrick said. But he added: "We know the effect we have for the family when we have officers together in great numbers. I think that's the main meaning here, to show that their loved one was just as important to us as to them."
Just days before his death, the 32-year-old Jackson — married with a 4-month-old son named Mason — wrote a Facebook post detailing how difficult it was for him to be both a black man and a police officer, describing himself as "tired physically and emotionally." He had been on the police force for a decade and had risen to the rank of corporal.
"I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat," Jackson wrote.
He urged people not to let "hate infect your heart," and he ended with: "If you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer. I got you."
That emotional Facebook posting was passed out to mourners at his funeral service, printed on a bookmark.
The Living Faith Christian Center, which holds 2,500 people in its seats, was packed and overflowing. Jackson's beaming smile was emblazoned on posters near his coffin and wall screens in the church. His black coffin, striped with blue, bore Superman shields outside and inside, along with photos of him and his son.
Jeffery Kelley, 49, didn't know Jackson, but traveled to the church after his overnight work shift ended Monday morning to pay his respects at the visitation.
"He was protecting us as well as his co-workers. In a situation like that, you've got to have sympathy," Kelley said. "Your heart's got to go out for stuff like that. It's not a black thing. It's not a white thing. It's a human race thing."
Brigitte Reulet, 53, was out early with the Gonzales Boat Club, passing out water to those who were waiting outside the church for the funeral.
"We all have friends and family who are police officers. This is the least we can do," she said. "You can't do anything to make it better for the families. There's nothing we can do to fix it. All we can do is show we care and show our respect."
Baton Rouge residents have been mourning at a series of memorial and funeral services since Jackson, police officer Matthew Gerald, 41, and East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy Brad Garafola, 45, were killed in a July 17 shootout with a masked former Marine, Gavin Long.
Long's attack came after the shooting death of a black man, Alton Sterling, by white police officers sparked protests around the city. Police say they don't know if Long was responding to that death, but they say he deliberately targeted officers.
Thousands of people and law enforcement officers from around the country filled seats at the Friday funeral service for Gerald and on Saturday for Garafola's funeral. A multiagency public memorial service for all three officers is planned for Thursday.