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Hundreds say goodbye to officer, and the pipes play

Kerry Dougherty
Virginian-Pilot columnist
 

The call went out a week ago: Officer down. On Tuesday, it was answered, with a mournful majesty.

Uniformed police officers, sheriffs' deputies, firefighters and paramedics from around Virginia converged on Great Bridge Baptist Church in Chesapeake to bid farewell to Jarrod Shivers, the 34-year-old detective who was shot and killed last week while executing a narcotics search warrant.

Squad cars from the Shenandoah Valley, Northern Virginia and outposts such as Drakes Branch rolled into Chesapeake on Tuesday morning. With shined shoes and badges bisected by black ribbons, the mourners assembled. They nodded to one another and bowed their heads in memory of a man many of them had never met.

"He wore blue - that's all that matters," said Master Police Officer Tom Crouch, president of the Newport News Police Pipes & Drums, which provided Shivers an achingly soulful send-off.

By 11 a.m., the cavernous church on Battlefield Boulevard was filled to capacity - a somber sea of blue - while mourners spilled into the lobby, and hundreds more stood silently in the parking lot under the pale January sun.

During the nearly two-hour service, Shivers was eulogized as a family man. A brave man. A guy whose sense of humor was matched by his sense of duty.

He was t he kind of officer, they said, who worried aloud about spending too much on dinner the night he died, because he had a wife and three kids to support and a mortgage to pay.

Easels in the church lobby offered snapshots of the detective's short, happy life. There were pictures of Shivers and his wife dancing at their wedding. Shivers grinning and holding his babies. Shivers on vacation in California with one hand casually resting on a baby stroller.

During the service, Jim Shivers choked back tears as he chronicled his son's life of public service. Jarrod was a volunteer firefighter in high school, he said. After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy. In 2000, he became a Chesapeake police officer. Despite a young family and demanding job, Jim Shivers proudly noted his son had recently earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

Justice.

Not something you want to think about when an officer is slain. How can there ever be a just conclusion to this?

The mayor spoke at the funeral. So did the police chief. And the Virginia secretary of Public Safety.

A letter from the governor was read. A soloist sang "Amazing Grace."

And then it was over.

As Shivers' flag-draped casket was wheeled slowly from the sanctuary, with his wife and daughters following a few steps behind, the first mournful strains of "The Minstrel Boy" floated on the air, from just outside.

The officers near me bit their lips and dabbed their eyes. It was the bagpipes, of course. And the thrumming of the drums.

It seemed odd, later, to tell Crouch how terribly beautiful his bagpipes had been.

He said officers often say they can maintain their composure at funerals, "until they hear the pipes."

Crouch has learned to fix his eyes on a cloud in the sky while playing, to be spared the sight of fellow officers tearing up.

Still, there's nothing to do about that lump in your throat. The one that forms as a widow walks, pipes keen, flags flutter, a riderless horse paws the ground - and a brave young police officer is laid to rest. 

The Police Emerald Society of Tidewater is hosting a benefit for Jarrod Shivers' family at 7 tonight at Paradocks East Coast Grille, 801 Eden Way in the Greenbrier section of Chesapeake.

Kerry Dougherty, (757) 446-2306, kerry.dougherty@cox.net