ALBANY, Ga. -- Officers from the four corners of the state and beyond packed into Gillionville Baptist Church on Tuesday to honor the life of an officer who was killed in the line of duty last week while attempting to arrest a robbery suspect.
Mourners from around the country joined local law enforcement officers in remembering Lt. Cliff Rouse, who was shot and killed Thursday after responding to a report of an armed robbery at the Pitt Stop convenience store on Sylvester Road.
While the accused shooter, Dontravius Thomas, remained locked away at the Dougherty County Jail without bond, Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek eulogized Rouse as a special officer, saying that Rouse lived the values he swore to protect.
Quoting from both the Bible and Shakespeare's "Henry V," Cheek fought back tears to describe the man he called his brother.
"John 15:13 says 'a greater love hath no man than he who would lay down his life for another.' Cliff Rouse was that man," Cheek said. "Last Thursday I got the call that you pray you never get and I pray we will never get again.
"Cliff Rouse was a special man. Cliff Rouse was a special officer, but he's not special because of what he did last Thursday night. He's special because he's been willing to do that for the last 18 years ... every night."
Packed beyond standing-room-only, the sanctuary was filled with civilians and police alike, some coming from as far away as the Calvert County, Md., Police Department to pay homage to Rouse and his family.
Still adorned with Christmas decorations, the sanctuary at Gillionville Baptist Church on Tuesday was a colorful array of varying hues of blue, khaki and green uniforms all of which contrasted starkly to Rouse's flag-draped coffin in the front center of the room -- his uniform hat and a photo at either end.
Following the service, the Rouse family was escorted out by a bagpiper from the Georgia State Patrol's honor guard, followed by Cheek and his fellow DCP officers, the heads of the Albany Police Department, the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office, the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit and the Dougherty District Attorney's office.
Last out were the heads of local government, city and county employees and the remaining law enforcement officers.
From the church, a motorcade of more than a hundred law enforcement vehicles joined family and friends in escorting Rouse's body to a Baker County cemetery where he was laid to rest.