LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The LMPD officer who died a day after being injured in a fiery crash while chasing a suspect last week was laid to rest Tuesday.
With birds chirping on a sunny, spring afternoon in Louisville's historic Cave Hill Cemetery, loved ones, friends and hundreds of other law-enforcement officers from several states paid their final respects to 30-year-old Nick Rodman. The service included a 21-gun salute, a helicopter flyover and a full military tribute.
Rodman was pursuing James Woods when their vehicles violently collided, sending both men to UofL Hospital last week. Rodman died the following day, and Woods has since been charged with murder.
But Tuesday wasn't about arrest reports or criminal charges. It was a celebration of Rodman's life, cut short at age 30, the all-American kid destined to serve his community.
"Being an officer wasn't his job, it was his calling," LMPD Chaplain Bill Weedman said at Tuesday morning's funeral service at Southeast Christian Church.
Weedman referenced the time Rodman talked to a man he was arresting, listening to him like he would a good friend. That man wrote a letter to LMPD last week upon learning of Rodman's death, thanking him for that conversation that inspired him to turn his own life around. It was one of many ways Rodman touched the lives of those in the community he served.
"No one knew about these good deeds until others came forward to tell their stories," said Beahl, who spoke on behalf of Rodman's First Division platoon, with nearly two dozen colleagues standing behind him. "It was just Nick being Nick."
Beahl cited several other stories that described Rodman as a family-first kind of guy who excelled in both academics and athletics in high school and college. He was a football star at Holy Cross High School and played soccer at Georgetown College, where he also was vice president of his fraternity.
Those who spoke Tuesday made it clear that Rodman made friends easily, was a loving grandson and son, a protective big brother and a dedicated husband to his wife, Ashley, and father to their two kids -- son Mason and 1-month-old daughter Ellie.
"It's never easy to say goodbye to someone who means so much to so many," said Beahl, who upon finishing his remarks was mobbed in a group embrace by the officers who surrounded him on the stage.
Conrad also heaped praise on Rodman, who came to the department as a recruit, his father having served LMPD for decades. His brother also is an officer with the department.
+ IMAGES: Memorial service for fallen LMPD Officer Nick Rodman
+ Police: Suspect arrested, was high at time of wreck that killed LMPD officer
+ VIDEO: 3-year-old salutes Officer Nick Rodman during procession
+ Hundreds turn out for Officer Rodman's procession
+ VIDEO: Memorial service for LMPD Officer Nick Rodman
+ LMPD chief, mayor memorialize fallen officer: 'Nick died as he lived - a hero'
+ Officer killed in the line of duty remembered at Louisville schools
+ Rodman family, River City FOP warn against Thin Blue Line USA solicitation
+ Candlelight fills park in honor of fallen officer
+ WAVE Country pays tribute to its fallen officer
+ Neighbors describe frantic moments before, after crash that killed LMPD officer
+ Officer Nick Rodman dies after fiery crash with suspect vehicle
"Today in this sad moment, (we) must rally around his family and friends, knowing they need us as much as we need them," the chief said. "There is nothing that any of us can say or do that will take away your heartache."
Fischer was among the first to speak at Tuesday's funeral service, the second for an LMPD officer since the city-county merger in 2003.
"One of Nick's values was compassion," Fischer said. "He learned it at the Rodman family dinner table. Nick practiced compassion through the life of his wife Ashley and their children Mason and Ellie."
Thousands of mourners attended the 90-minute service. Then, the procession of nearly 100 vehicles snaked through Louisville toward the Highlands, where Rodman's final resting place awaited.
Hundreds of supporters lined the streets near Cherokee Park to greet the caravan as it approached Cave Hill Cemetery.
That's where a stranger from Indiana volunteered his horse and caisson to help LMPD say farewell to a hero.
"When I was asked to do this, they asked me what I wanted," Chuck Edge told WAVE 3 News' Connie Leonard. "I told him, 'Nothing,' because everybody that's in a position of what this officer was in deserves the right to go out in class."
The service closed with Rodman's First Division platoon colleagues each placing a flower on his silver casket.