Thousands of people attend fallen Phoenix officer’s funeral

Mar 28, 2019, 8:39 AM | Updated: 4:50 pm

PHOENIX — Thousands of people attended a Thursday funeral service for a Phoenix police officer who was killed last week after being struck by a passing vehicle.

Officer Paul Rutherford was laid to rest at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria.

The church said approximately 2,000 people were in attendance for the 10 a.m. service, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams and other members of the department said the 51-year-old father and grandfather was a kind and funny man, who learned how to perform magic tricks to entertain and calm children he encountered on service calls.

After the funeral, a procession to Phoenix Memorial Park and Cemetery near Seventh Street and Beardsley Road took place.

Ed DeCastro, commander for the Maryvale precinct, said Rutherford was an “amazing man who loved his family, loved his job and would do anything for anybody.”

Officer Aaron Joseph, who was part of the security detail at Rutherford’s Wednesday visitation in Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Avondale, said the massive turnout was encouraging to the law enforcement community.

“The community is obviously a huge support for police and first responders, so having people from all over the state — I even saw somebody from Utah, state troopers coming down here to give us some support,” Joseph told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“Obviously we work together well with the community, we want to always have that bond. So it’s meaningful to us to have support for the community, especially for the family and the Phoenix Police Department and law enforcement as a whole.”

Detective Matthew Johnson told KTAR News he was honored to be able to play the bagpipes at Rutherford’s service.

“While a lot of people who knew Paul get to show up to the funeral, I get to be the only one to play for him — and the only one who can in the department — so that means a lot to me,” he said.

The Phoenix Police Department posted an emotional last call for Rutherford on Facebook after the services.

Last Call #6403

Last call for Officer Paul Rutherford #6403

Posted by City of Phoenix Police Department on Thursday, March 28, 2019

Rutherford died March 21 after he was struck by a vehicle in west Phoenix.

Phoenix police officials said Rutherford was taken to a hospital in critical condition, where he was later pronounced dead.

The driver of the vehicle was a 40-year-old woman who stayed at the scene and cooperated with police.

Impairment was not believed to be a cause of the crash.

It was the department’s 39th line of duty death.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Thousands of people attend fallen Phoenix officer’s funeral