Law enforcement is a difficult and often dangerous profession, and nobody understands that as well as those who wear the badge.
Benton County Sheriff’s Deputy Brent Iverson didn’t die in the line of duty, but scores of his fellow officers and other first responders turned out to honor his dedication on Friday, forming a solemn procession across Corvallis to a memorial service at Suburban Christian Church.
Beginning about 12:45 p.m., more than two dozen law enforcement vehicles from multiple agencies, their emergency lights flashing, rolled south on Highway 99W from Circle Boulevard, continued through downtown on Fourth Street, then turned west on Philomath Boulevard and finally south again on 53rd Street to the church.
Also in the procession were firefighting rigs, wildland patrol vehicles, even tow trucks. A phalanx of motorcycle-mounted police officers did traffic control duty, halting cross-traffic at major intersections so the funeral cortege could proceed in safety and dignity.
The first rank of law enforcement vehicles, following the hearse and several private cars, was made up of Benton County sheriff’s patrol rigs. The Linn, Lincoln, Clackamas and Washington County sheriff’s offices were also represented, as were the Corvallis, Philomath, Albany, Lebanon, Eugene, Portland, Wilsonville, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Tigard and Coos Bay police departments.
Also on hand were the Corvallis, Philomath, Alsea, Monroe and Adair Village fire departments, as well as vehicles from the Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Department of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. At least two towing companies sent wreckers to join the procession.
The nonprofit Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation took the lead in organizing the procession.
Brent Iverson, 42, died May 27 while driving home from a trip with his son. He is believed to have suffered a fatal medical event before driving his pickup truck off Fern Road near Airport Avenue south of Philomath. His son was uninjured.
It was the second such tragedy in eight days for the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Rick Fontaine, 49, died May 20 after a short battle with cancer. He, too, was escorted on his final journey by a motorcade of law enforcement vehicles.
Eugene Police Officer Todd Hargrove, who previously worked for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and knew Iverson personally, said the large turnout for Iverson’s funeral on Friday was a testament to the state’s tight-knit law enforcement community.
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“It’s a brotherhood,” he said. “We all share a common bond.”
Hillsboro Police Officer Darren Kangas was one of the motorcycle officers in the escort detail. All of them, he said, had received extensive training in how to safely escort a motorcade for events such as funeral processions.
“We’re honored to do them, but it’s not a happy time,” he said.
“We’re here to show the ultimate respect for the family,” he added. “(Fallen officers) are not forgotten when they’re gone. We’re always here for the family.”
Benton County Undersheriff Greg Ridler said the show of support for Iverson and Fontaine meant a lot to his grieving department, but it didn’t surprise him.
“We’re just in it together,” he said.
“We know we have support and a community of law enforcement out there that will always be there for us.”
The Oregon State Police, along with the Corvallis, Philomath and Albany police departments, pitched in to cover calls for service throughout Benton County while the procession and memorial service were going on.
Both Iverson and Fontaine left families behind, and online fundraising pages have been set up for their survivors at www.gofundme.com.