On freeway overpasses, they waved tiny flags as the long funeral cortege passed. On the road below, they pulled over and climbed out of their cars, placing their hands over their hearts. On the streets of a grieving capital, small children were hoisted onto their parents’ shoulders to watch this last journey of a hero they never knew.
And on a sultry summer afternoon Thursday, beneath the shade of a red maple tree at Arlington National Cemetery, slain Capitol Police Det. John M. Gibson was laid to rest.
The 1,000-vehicle motorcade that traveled 35 miles from a Prince William County, Va., church to the Mall and then on to Arlington, Va., halted lunch-hour routines and, for many, became a somber reminder of American values. Office workers, tourists and police officers saluted or placed their hands over the hearts as it passed, some in tears.
The motorcade stretched for more than 14 miles and took about half an hour to pass. It began after Gibson’s funeral at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Lake Ridge, and went past the U.S. Capitol, where Gibson worked for 18 years and where he was slain last Friday.
Officers turned out in droves, from as far away as California and Canada, to lead the tribute to Gibson, whom mourners described as an ordinary man who did an extraordinary thing in sacrificing his life to save others.
“You didn’t have to know him personally,” said Sgt. Thomas Maksym of the Nassau County, N.Y., Police Department, holding a damp handkerchief as he stood at Gibson’s grave site. “You know the risks he faced every day. It could have been you.”
Thousands of onlookers lined the funeral route, waiting in the blistering heat for the cortege to pass. An honor guard of 260 motorcycle officers led the way.
Gibson and another 18-year Capitol Police veteran, Officer Jacob J. Chestnut, 58, were killed when an armed intruder rushed past a security checkpoint.
Chestnut’s family, who will bury their loved one today at Arlington, attended Gibson’s services. The Gibsons will do the same at Chestnut’s funeral in Fort Washington, Md.
The shooting suspect, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., 41, is in D.C. General Hospital, continuing to recover from his gunshot wounds.
Defense lawyers for Weston have won court approval to have him meet with a psychiatrist and psychologist at the hospital.
The meetings, which sources said have yet to take place, are the first clear indication that Weston’s attorneys are exploring an insanity defense. Weston, who once was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, has been charged with murder and would face a possible death penalty if convicted.
Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson issued an order Tuesday clearing the way for Weston to meet with clinical psychologist Bronson Levin and psychiatrist Susan Fiester, both of whom have worked on insanity cases. The judge also permitted defense lawyers to videotape the interviews.
At his funeral Mass, Gibson was remembered as a loving husband and father of three teenage children and a devoted, disciplined law enforcement officer.
The assembled congregation, including several lawmakers, quickly filled the 1,500 seats, spilling over into the nearby parish hall and onto the sidewalks.