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Posted November 5, 1999 | comments Leave a comment

A Fallen Officer: Family, friends, police officers say goodbye to Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook

Thousands attend funeral to honor Timbrook

By Charlotte J. Eller - Daily Staff Writer

Ricky Lee Timbrook was buried Thursday in Mount Hebron Cemetery under two English walnut trees and surrounded by about 3,000 people, most of them law officers who came from far and wide to honor the 32-year-old Winchester police sergeant killed six days earlier in the line of duty.

Timbrook’s widow, Kelly, laid a long-stemmed red rose atop his pecan-wood coffin as she rose to leave the cemetery under a bright blue sky.

One by one, three dozen other relatives followed, each placing a long-stemmed white rose on the coffin, which was engraved with Timbrook’s badge, unit No. 31, and name, rank, birth and death dates and had small porcelain eagles and American flags on each corner.

Earlier, thousands of police officers filled Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the grounds around it for Timbrook’s funeral.

Among the officers, some were grim-faced while others wept and hugged each other. Deep sadness permeated the scenes.

The number of people at the funeral at Sacred Heart, which had lent its facilities because of its size, location and parking, far exceeded the 2,000 originally expected. Taking part were officers from throughout Virginia, law enforcement agencies from other states and federal agencies, including the FBI and National Park Service, which sent a mounted unit.

Funeral Director Larry T. Omps, who also is Winchester’s mayor, said Timbrook’s funeral was the largest in city history. More than 3,500 people packed the church sanctuary, narthex and muldowney Hall on the ground floor directly beneath the sanctuary. People also stood outside. The funeral was shown on closed-circuit television in the hall and just outside it.

Once the crowd had gathered at the church, honor guards from the Virginia State Police and other police agencies greeted Timbrook’s body as bagpiper Christopher S. Jackson, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer, played “Amazing Grace.”

Then a sobbing Mrs. Timbrook, dressed in an ankle-length black dress that contrasted with her blond hair, was escorted into church by city Police Chief Gary W. Reynolds and Front Royal police Chaplain William Barton.

Omps, Reynolds and Officer Julian K. Berger, a friend of Timbrook, paid tribute to the fallen officer during the service, which also included prayers, Scriptures, hymns and a meditation by the Rev. James H. Utt, Timbrook’s pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.

Timbrook “exemplified the excellence of a community police officer,” Omps said. “The citizens owe Ricky Timbrook and his family an enormous debt of gratitude for the privilege of having known him and the contributions he has made to make Winchester a better place for us to live. I can assure you that Ricky and his work will not be forgotten.”

Earlier this week, the City Council’s Finance Committee recommended that the planned public safety center be named for Timbrook. The council will vote on recommendation Tuesday.

Timbrook was gunned down during a foot pursuit late Friday night of a man wanted for questioning for a possible probation violation. His body was found in the walkway between two houses on East Piccadilly Street. A 35-year-old city man has been charged with capital murder in his death.

Berger, who learned of his friend’s death from a dispatcher Saturday at 2:30 a.m., said he could never have prepared himself for the news that has “forever changed my life.”

Stunned, he called the dispatcher back “to make sure that what I had been told wasn’t a terrible mistake. My heart was broken,” he said. “We’ve lost the finest person I’ve ever met. Ricky, you’re the best. I’ll never forget you. We love you.”

Reynolds said tributes to Timbrook have been pouring in, ranging from a letter from Gov. James S. Gilmore III to a woman’s last handful of change, which she gave Reynolds for a fund for Timbrook’s unborn baby, to a letter from a regional jail inmate he had arrested.

Reynolds read Gilmore’s and the inmate’s letters.

“He was a good cop and person,” the inmate wrote. “I just can’t believe something could happen to such good people. [Timbrook] treated me with respect. He was only doing his job. I am sorry for your loss.”

Later, Utt, who led the funeral with the Rev. Jeffrey D. May also of Grace Lutheran Church, urged law officers to remember Timbrook.

“We gather not just to mourn, but to remember and give thanks for his life, his duty, his love and care for all the people he touched,” Utt said. “We gather to say our goodbyes and to support each other in this dark and sad moment.”

Using Timbrook’s first name as an acrostic, he encouraged mourners to “Remember your oath of honor; Inspire in each other the best you have to offer; Care for all people, especially the little ones; Keep love and mercy at the center of your work; and Yield your will to the higher good.”

As the cortege left the church, people, many of whom work in offices that closed briefly out of respect, lined the route of the funeral procession, which included about 580 police vehicles, more than 100 civilian vehicles and 100 officers on motorcycles.

Some carried flowers, which they threw into the path of the hearse, while others bore signs saying, “God bless the Timbrook family.”

The first vehicle in the procession didn’t reach downtown until 45 minutes after the church service ended. The procession took about an hour to pass a given point downtown, where doorways, utility poles, street signs and people were decked in blue bows.

Several churches rang their bells when the procession reached downtown and continued until it reached the cemetery at the end of East Boscawen Street.

When the white Lincoln hearse, accompanied by four Park Service officers on horseback and several on motorcycles, reached the Public Safety Building, where Timbrook’s flower-bedecked, black-draped cruiser is parked, it briefly halted and a woman ran from the side of the street and placed a bouquet of bright red flowers on the hearse’s roof.

As the hearse headed south on Kent Street, a group in front of the Frederick County office complex held hands. On Boscawen Street, near the cemetery’s gate, several women held large, lighted votive candles in glass holders, which were tied with blue ribbons.

Blue ribbons were seemingly everywhere - pinned to people’s clothes and tied to vehicles, utility poles, street signs, building doors and trees.

At the burial site on the southeast side of the cemetery, which was ringed by more than 200 floral arrangements, the crowd waited in near silence for about 45 minutes until hundreds of cars were parked so the graveside service, which started about 2 p.m., could begin.

The ceremony, which lasted about 25 minutes, included the reading of Scripture and a benediction by Utt and May, prayer by Barton and the playing of taps by a distant bugler.

Finally, the state police honor guard, which held an American flag over the casket, quietly folded it and presented it to Reynolds.

Reynolds carried the flag to Mrs. Timbrook, who expects the couples’ first child next month, stooped, handed it to her and spoke to her briefly.

As the gathering slowly dispersed, some people added flowers to the top of the coffin and a few took a small blossom as a memento. A luncheon was then held at the nearby Winchester Moose lodge.

At the Public Safety Building, a unique tribute came from the Shelter for Abused Women, which placed a large scroll next to Timbrook’s cruiser containing a letter available for the public to sign that thanks Timbrook “for protecting our children and community.”

City police L.T. W.D. Griffith said the scroll will remain available for the public to sign as long as the cruiser is on the parking lot, Griffith said.

At the gravesite after the ceremony, Utt contemplated the meaning of the days events.

“I hope the service was of comfort, first and foremost, to the family of the fallen officer, and that it was a tribute to him and a comfort to the community,” he said.

He also hopes the service was a comfort to all police officers especially, he said. “I’m overwhelmed at their presence and how kind and respectful and close-knit they are.”


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