NYSSA, Ore. — Tragedy struck the town of Nyssa, Oregon last week when a reserve police officer was killed in the line of duty.
Friends, family and law enforcement from across the region came together to honor, remember and celebrate the life of 43-year-old Nyssa Police Cpl. Joseph Johnson during a ceremony on Saturday.
A dedicated public servant.
"He did it just as professional - if not more, with pride," Nyssa Police Chief Don Ballou said during the service. "Our mission statement, thanks to our previous chief we've had here: 'Honor, Integrity and Service.' That's Joe. He exemplified our mission statement."
A dedicated friend.
"Joe was always ready to give, always ready to help," Cassidy Kotte, pastor and Johnson's friend said.
A dedicated father.
"He took this role of husband and father to heart. He did everything within his power to honor, support, and most importantly - love his family," assistant director of operations for the Oregon Department of Corrections, Rob Persson said. "He was always at his happiest when he was talking about them."
Those were some of the words used to describe the Nyssa reserve officer and Oregon Department of Corrections mental health officer during his Celebration of Life on Saturday.
Hundreds of officers from agencies across Idaho and Oregon showed their support and paid their respects for the fallen officer.
Officers from across the Treasure Valley rallied and drove to Nyssa to be part of a procession ahead of the services. Law enforcement from the Gem State gathered at the Idaho State Police Headquarters in Meridian, and were joined by more agencies during the journey to Nyssa. Idaho State Police expected between 250-300 vehicles to be part of the convoy.
"We're just very happy that we could get as many police officers out here as possible to show respect for the service that Corporal Johnson provided the Nyssa community and the state of Oregon," Idaho State Police Sgt. Ken Beckner said.
The officers joined more than 1,000 people who filled the Nyssa High School auditorium and gymnasium as they remembered and shared stories of Johnson.
"He was a man that here on Earth, put on the armor that we have, and would go out to work every day to fight evil - and he knew that," Ballou said.
Johnson is remembered for his integrity, faith, devotion to his family, and his sense of humor.
"When he was moving into his office, they thought he was moving a toy store into the office because of all of his Star Wars-themed goodies and memorabilia," Persson said.
Johnson was a reserve officer with Nyssa Police, meaning he volunteered on his own time to serve in the police force.
"There will never be another Joe, never. He will never be replaced," Ballou said. "Sure we'll find others, there'll be others that are going to be just as much of a goofball, just as smart, or just as great of an officer as he is. There's never going to be another Joe. For us here, we're going to push forward. We're going to get through this. We will heal. We will find others. We'll continue to carry God's torch through the streets and hold the line for our community - for Joe."
During the service, Persson read a poem on behalf of Johnson's family. 'The Thin Blue Line' was written by Kala Cota in honor of Cpl. Joseph Johnson:
"They're gathering up in Heaven, those whose hearts bleed blue
They heard another one's coming, his time on earth is through
There's a ripple in the fabric, a tear in the thin blue line
A sacrifice was made, an officer in his prime
They stand guard at Heaven's gate, wearing their dress blues
Heads are bowed in silence, when he arrives, they'll all salute
Then they'll slap him on the back and welcome him inside
Though their hearts are grieving, they're also filled with pride
He bravely gave his life to protect those he served
Justice and freedom, he stood for every word
Our hearts are with his family, we grieve their sacrifice
May they feel our love as we pray for them tonight
On earth, they are gathering, the gunman doesn't stand a chance
Those who hold the line, won't take a backward glance
Eyes looking forward, there's no place he can hide
One of theirs was taken, they'll stand on that thin blue line
Take up where he left off, finish what they must
We pray for their safety, and in our God we trust
That good will once again triumph, though the devil takes his due
Every heart determined; God bless our Men in Blue."
The Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation is accepting donations for Corporal Johnson's family.
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