By JB Clark
TUPELO – Family and friends of Tupelo Police Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer witnessed much support Friday from hundreds holding flags and lining his funeral procession route from First United Methodist Church to Tupelo Memorial Park Cemetery on Joyner Avenue.
Just before noon, the procession left the church, where funeral services for the 38-year-old officer were held, and was greeted by supporters holding black and blue and American flags along the way.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said he estimated more than 1,000 people lined the streets along the way to the cemetery.
Hundreds of law enforcement vehicles from as far away as Florence, Ala., Jackson and Memphis, Tenn., as well as local law enforcement, formed the procession, guiding Stauffer’s family and friends to the internment.
On Woodlawn Street officers stood at parade rest, watching over Stauffer’s family home. Officers have stood guard over the home since their colleague’s passing on Monday.
A block away, Leslie Geoghegan stood in friend Elsie Jones’ front yard. They held American flags as family and friends of Stauffer passed.
“We just wanted to show respect for Sgt. Stauffer and for his family,” said Geoghegan, who lives a few streets over. “My brother used to be in law enforcement, so this was close to home.”
Jones said she didn’t know Stauffer personally but crossed paths with him regularly on the street and through her work in the medical field. “My heart goes out to the family,” she said.
A few doors down, Mary Meshell and Jennifer Windham held an American flag.
“We’re just real tore up about all of this,” Meshell said. “We wanted to pay our respects and really appreciate all the police do.”
Closer to the cemetery, Megan Riley, a supervisor at Lee County E-911 stood with some of her co-workers. She said she wanted to stand and support an officer she communicated with regularly during the course of her workday.
Earlier Friday morning, the Tupelo Police Department’s central office was quiet and somber as officers prepared to attend the funeral of their fallen law enforcement family member.
Tupelo Police Capt. Chuck McDougald said the overwhelming community support is helping him and the other officers in the department.
“We appreciate all of the prayers and support from the community,” he said. “Seeing how strong the Stauffer family is and how strong the Maher family is, I know personally, is making me want to honor their memory by being strong as well. I think a lot of the other guys are seeing that same thing.”
McDougald said each member of the department is dealing with the tragedy in his or her own way.
“I think they’re falling back on their professionalism, using their training to get through a critical incident,” he said. “Unfortunately, in our line of work, not only do we have to go back to work, but it’s something we know is prevalent in our line of work. We talk about it. We train for it. We have critical incident and stress management-type classes.”
McDougald said they also have received support from the law enforcement community.
“Today, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and MHP (Mississippi Highway Patrol) have graciously helped us cover our calls for the day so our men and women can go to the funeral,” he said.
Various law enforcement agencies continued investigating the case Friday and are following all leads, spokesmen said.