A half an hour before the memorial service for fallen Kenai Police Officer John Watson was scheduled to begin, the Renee C Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School was already filled to capacity.
By the time the family of Officer Watson was escorted into the auditorium by Kenai Police Officers, an additional 300 some members of the community had filled the Gymnasium at KCHS where a live video feed of the service was projected onto a screen. Hundreds of uniformed Public Safety officers from all over Alaska and as far away as Oregon and Washington State came to pay tribute to their fallen colleague, "We're a tightly knit group, we're family, we have our mothers and fathers, wives and children, but as public safety officers we are a family and we care for each other," said William Tandeske Alaska Commissioner of Public Safety.
A three-mile procession of Public Safety vehicles escorted the remains of Officer Watson from Peninsula Mortuary to Kenai Central High School. There had been a uniformed officer with Watson 24 hours a day since he was shot and killed Christmas evening. Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp said Christmas will never be the same for any of us, but it will be a time to remember John, and call his wife and family. Not only was John's life taken from him in an act of unwarranted violence, but this entire community was violated . That is underscored by the tremendous turn out here today as a tribute to John, and we all find it heartening, said Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp. "The wound that John's death has caused will never heal, but we are so much better for having served with him. The Kenai Police Department is my responsibility, and the people that work here are the love of my life. I grieve over the loss of my brother John. John will not come back to me, but someday I will go to him," said Chief Kopp speaking from his heart and showing great courage in controlling his personal emotion.
Symbolizing the hope for a violence free community, Kenai Firefighter Terry Bookey stands with his child during the memorial service for Kenai Officer John Watson, killed Christmas night.
Lt. Governor Loren Leman, born and raised in Ninilchik, expressed his personal sorrow that John was the first police officer killed in the line of duty on the Peninsula. He then read a personal letter from Governor Frank Murkowski to the Watson family and presented John's wife Kathy with the flag that flew at half-mast over the State Capitol.
As reported in the Peninsula Clarion: following the service Watson's body was escorted back to Peninsula Memorial Chapel by the Kenai Police Department. After the procession concluded, Chief Kopp made one final call to police radio dispatch on the fallen officer's behalf. "Kenai K-11 is 10-7" reported the Chief; police code meaning officer Watson is no longer in service. "Ten-four," came the dispatcher's reply, "Rest in peace. We love you, and we'll take it from here."
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