Omak residents had lots of help Monday when they laid to rest a well-liked police officer who was shot to death last week.
Nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers from all over the Northwest poured into this city of 4,500 to pay their respects to Officer Mike Marshall. With family members, the visiting officers filled the gymnasium floor and spilled into the bleachers during Marshall’s memorial service at Omak High School.
All told, about 2,800 people attended the service.
Afterward, Marshall’s funeral procession needed no escort. It was a seemingly endless train of light-flashing police vehicles that took about a half-hour to pass.
Officers came from as far away as Lewiston and Portland. Seattle and other Western Washington departments each sent more officers than the 12-person Omak Police Department has.
Spokane, Spokane County, the Tri-Cities, even Kettle Falls, were represented. So were the U.S. Border Patrol and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The Mounties and other large departments with dress uniforms and polished drill teams provided an honor guard that lined the gymnasium. On stage, Marshall’s flag-draped coffin was flanked by two solemn guards who were changed every few minutes in a ceremony reminiscent of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The guards gave a slow-motion salute before coming to attention. The Greater Seattle Police Pipe Band added a mournful bagpipe tribute.
None of it could match the drama, though, of Omak police Officer Don Eddy Jr. walking to the podium with a slight limp to eulogize Marshall. Eddy was shot in the left thigh by the same man accused of killing Marshall with a small-caliber bullet to the head.
The two officers had just confronted Juan D. Gonzalez, 41, at a local motel where he allegedly created a disturbance after a motel guest refused to see him. Witnesses said Gonzalez - who has so far been charged only with a probation violation - pulled two small-caliber pistols from his pockets and shot Marshall in the head.
Eddy returned fire, hitting Gonzalez in the chest. The suspect dropped one gun when he was shot, but shot Eddy with the second gun while Eddy was handcuffing him. Gonzalez is now recovering at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where Marshall died.
Eddy, the first officer on the scene, said he still doesn’t understand why the fatal shot claimed Marshall instead of him.
“But I know Mike wouldn’t want me to dwell on it,” Eddy said.
He described Marshall, a 12-year veteran officer, as “a man of strong faith and a role model for me and many others.” Eddy, 36, said he came to regard the 43-year-old Marshall as an older brother when he joined the force 10 years ago and Marshall befriended him.
Whether he needed help working on a vehicle at home or confronting an armed suspect in a dark alley, Marshall was there, Eddy said.
“I will honor his name to my dying breath,” Eddy said.
And, he added, he and other Omak officers will be the “worst enemy” of anyone who tarnishes Marshall’s memory with racism.
Eddy said he and other officers are still seething about a remark shouted by a “coward” who drove past the police station after Marshall was killed.
He said the motorist suggested the shooting wouldn’t have happened if police would “kill those Mexicans and run them off.” Gonzalez is a Mexican citizen, and Okanogan County has a large Hispanic population.
Marshall “was fair to all,” and was known for soothing even people who were “filled with rage,” Eddy said.
Sgt. Frank Rogers agreed Marshall was “always easy-going.”
He spoke for the entire Omak Police Department - which stood in a row behind him - when he fondly recalled the “fanatical” fisherman who once added a bass pin to his uniform. He also remembered the hot day when Marshall taped one end of a hose to an air-conditioning vent in his car and put the other end down his shirt.
A few years ago, Rogers said, Marshall was diagnosed with cancer. Marshall showed “an incredible amount of ease, grace and guts” during treatment and beat down the disease, Rogers said. Marshall is survived by his wife, Rhea, and two children, John, 16, and Jessica, 14.
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