Under somber gray skies, hundreds of police officers from virtually every local jurisdiction stood silently in a freezing drizzle yesterday, their right hands raised in salute, as they paid final homage to slain D.C. police Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer.
Then, after the pomp and ceremony were over and the 30-year-old officer had been laid to rest at Fort Lincoln Cemetery, a few of his comrades remained at the grave site, one wiping tears from a rain-streaked face, another laying a single red carnation on Cournoyer's casket.
Police officers from as far as Delaware and New York attended the service for Cournoyer at St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Riverdale and then formed a miles-long procession that wound its way into the District and out to the cemetery in Brentwood.
Cross streets were closed and traffic came to a standstill at intersections along the approximately 10-mile route. Shoppers and diners stood looking out of steamy windows in some establishments. A few motorists stuck in the waiting lines opened their doors and stood outside to watch. At one underpass, a gaggle of children sat on the railing above and peered curiously at what looked like a never-ending line of cars and blinking red lights.
And when the procession passed the red brick headquarters of the 6th District, where Cournoyer had been assigned, scores of officers stood on the front steps and saluted.
Cournoyer, a six-year member of the force, was fatally wounded Tuesday night when he responded to a radio report of a holdup at a Murry's Steaks store and drove to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station, less than a block away, to search for suspects.
There, Cournoyer boarded a waiting shuttle bus, where he spotted a passenger in the crowd matching the description of one of the holdup men, according to police. Cournoyer searched the man and then escorted him off the bus, apparently not drawing his service revolver because of concern for the other passengers' safety, police said. Outside the bus, a fight broke out. During the struggle, the passenger pulled a handgun, shot Cournoyer once in the chest and fled, police said.
After a 31-hour manhunt, two suspects were arrested Thursday and charged with felony murder.
Yesterday, during services at St. Bernard's, the Rev. R. Joseph Dooley, the police chaplain, called Cournoyer "a true patriot, a true hero."
"Joe Cournoyer loved his country, his family, his city and his job," Dooley told the mourners, who included Mayor Marion Barry and Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. "For what other reason would he have stepped onto that Metrobus on Tuesday night and ultimately to his untimely death?"
The one-hour service and brief grave site ceremony were punctuated with moments of formality. An honor guard carried the flag-draped casket to and from the church between rows of flags held aloft by other in full dress. At the cemetery, the report of guns pierced the silence around the grave, and then "Taps" was solemnly played.
When the ceremony was over, Deputy Chief Fred Thomas, commander of the 6th District, handed to Cournoyer's wife Darlene the flag that had draped the casket.
During the service at St. Bernard's, Dooley, with words of special meaning to Cournoyer's comrades who filled the pews, said that "the police officer often cannot draw his gun because of his fear of innocent people being hurt. The suspect has a big advantage.
"Sometimes, as in this instance, because of his overriding concern for the safety of the other passengers, Sgt. Cournoyer paid the supreme sacrifice," Dooley said. "He laid down his life for the citizens of his city."