It was only a few steps. But it might as well have been a few miles.
For this was the longest walk of police Chief George Bruneio's life.
Looking unsteady, he stood before the phalanx of law enforcement officers gathered Tuesday at Northampton Community College, fumbling with a small piece of paper that held a 37-word speech.
Then Bruneio calmed, seeming to draw courage from the officers behind him, and strode toward the 30-year-old widow. In his white-gloved hands he held her husband's Freemansburg police cap and badge, and the American flag that had draped his casket.
"On behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Bruneio read to Jennifer Lasso, "this flag is presented to you as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service rendered by your husband, Robert, to the Freemansburg Police Department."
Lasso held back tears and pressed the keepsakes to her heart, signaling an end to a public memorial service for her 31-year-old husband and father of their two children who was killed in the line of duty last week.
"I was very happy for her," Bruneio, 71, said afterward. "I think she did a heck of a job. She's my friend and I've seen her cry many times from the hurt."
Robert Lasso was fatally shot Thursday while responding to an emergency call in the borough. When Bruneio arrived as backup, he saw Lasso being attacked by two dogs. Neither he nor Lasso saw the homeowner, George Hitcho Jr., lurking behind a screen door where he leveled a shotgun and fired, interviews and court records show.
Hitcho, 46, was caught immediately by Bruneio and remains in Northampton County Prison without bail.
But no one spoke of Hitcho on Tuesday.
The long day was reserved for Lasso, recalled with sorrow and laughter as a devoted father, loving husband, and honest and earnest brother in blue.
The day began shortly after 8 a.m. when the family, traveling in three limousines, followed a procession of police motorcycles to Long Funeral Home in Bethlehem. After turning into the funeral home parking lot, the motorcycle engines were turned off. Silence fell.
"Ten hut," came the command as members of Freemansburg Fire Company lined the pathway of the funeral home's walkway, saluting Jennifer and family as they entered the funeral home for a private goodbye.
After a one-hour private service, the escort made its way to the packed memorial service at NCC, winding through the three-quarter-square-mile borough Lasso patrolled during his seven years on the force.
The rain, which fell steadily early Tuesday morning, stopped shortly before the motorcade passed a solemn crowd of more than 50 who gathered near the police station, which was draped with three black ribbons.
Some in the crowd put their hands on their hearts. Others bowed their heads. One man waved an American flag. And many had a story to tell about Lasso, even the youngest among them.
Lasso, a devoted father himself, was there with a comforting word when 5-year-old Tony Radle's bike was stolen two weeks ago. Lasso was there with a wave and a smile for 12-year-old Dana Radle when she came home from school.
"He called me trouble without a double," Dana said, giggling.
Lasso would be the first one to wear a ribbon or stand in the rain for someone else, said Ilze Gallich, a volunteer fire company member.