Seemingly on cue, light rain began to fall Friday afternoon just as the miles-long procession for slain Officer Jordan Sheldon came into view for a suddenly hushed crowd lining Main Street in downtown Mooresville.
What had been a cacophony of conversations was instantly muted, leaving a reverent silence interrupted only by the drone of a helicopter overhead and the siren of the procession’s lead vehicle.
Those who had been sitting in folding chairs or on curbs rose at the sight of the hearse carrying the fallen K9 officer, who was shot to death during a traffic stop May 4. Some waved American flags of varying sizes, some held their hands over their hearts, some saluted, and others captured video with their phones.
Just behind the hearse, Sheldon’s father leaned his head out the window of an SUV and waved as it passed.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he repeated over and over.
The procession had traveled for miles on Interstates 485 and 77, where crowds gathered on overpasses and in other areas where they had a view, as they did on U.S. 21 and Waterlynn Drive after the vehicles exited the highway in Mooresville.
But in downtown, where crowds like this typically gather for holiday parades and festivals, those lining the streets were little more than an arm’s length from the vehicles as they passed. The compact corridor of grief guided Sheldon and his caravan under a massive American flag suspended by two towering fire truck ladders.
The intimacy of the downtown leg of the journey was evident as a string of Mooresville Police Department vehicles passed. Many of the officers’ wives and partners riding in the passenger seats were visibly overcome with emotion at the sight of the crowd packed into the heart of the town that the 32-year-old Sheldon served and protected for six years.
Dozens of K9 units were part of the procession in a signal of solidarity for their fallen comrade. As a Winston-Salem Police Department K9 vehicle passed, a dog hidden behind a protective screen in the back seat barked non-stop through the open window.
The officer who was driving did nothing to quiet the K9.
On this day, that was as it should be.