Houston & Peach

Caisson takes slain sergeant to graveside, as it has many lawmen before

Funeral for slain Peach County sheriff’s sergeant

"He wouldn't want you to stop," preacher tells survivors of slain Peach County sheriff's Sgt. Patrick Sondron at his funeral in Warner Robins on Nov. 10, 2016.
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"He wouldn't want you to stop," preacher tells survivors of slain Peach County sheriff's Sgt. Patrick Sondron at his funeral in Warner Robins on Nov. 10, 2016.

The blue lights stretched down Watson Boulevard as far as the eye could see as the funeral procession for slain Peach County Sgt. Patrick Sondron came through Warner Robins Thursday afternoon.

More than 300 cars, most of them patrol cars from cities and counties all over the state, followed behind a stream of police motorcycles headed to the cemetery on Pleasant Hill Road.

On Sunday, Sondron and Deputy Daryl Smallwood were fatally shot after responding to a dispute between neighbors.

As the blue lights passed beneath an arch of crossed ladders from the Peach County and Perry fire departments, hats came off and hands covered hearts.

From the sidewalk outside a gas station, 69-year-old Amalia Beaver watched, clutching her American flag as she held it high.

“I stand for the policeman and for this country,” said Beaver, who moved to Warner Robins from Puerto Rico in 1982. “In this situation, we don’t have to pray for (Sondron). We know where he is. We have to pray for his family because now the family’s the one who has to deal.”

Peach County Sgt. Patrick Sondron's procession funeral procession in Warner Robins

Fay Ray and Roslyn Brookins, both in their 70s, also watched as the steady stream of cars passed by.

Ray said she heard the sirens that Sunday night from her house. They wailed in the distance for more than 20 minutes, she said.

Brookins, of Byron, said her daughter works at the Peach County Sheriff’s Office and knew Sondron well.

“You know, Patrick had been there for almost 13 years. Everybody in the area knew Patrick,” Brookins said. “He was just a unique person. He was always trying to help.”

Hundreds of patrol cars later, the procession paused.

Cars stopped. Sirens wailed again, and Sondrons’ family followed behind the hearse.

Traffic stopped for the sergeant’s body to be transferred from the hearse onto the caisson.

That very same caisson has carried the bodies of slain lawmen across America, including two other fallen deputies in Middle Georgia.

In 2014, the caisson group from North Carolina carried Michael Norris’s body through downtown Forsyth. Norris was killed after responding to reports of a suicidal man.

This year, the caisson group carried the body of Eastman police officer Tim Smith, who was fatally shot while responding to a call about a man with a gun. The Caisson also carried the body of Bibb County investigator T.J. Freeman in May after he died in a crash while chasing a suspect.

At the graveside, hundreds of people surrounded Sondron’s family, who sat in front of the casket beneath a green tent in Magnolia Park Cemetery.

Two men in uniforms ceremoniously folded a large American flag before the sergeant’s family. His wife’s sobbed, heaving with grief as she accepted the flag that had been folded into a triangle.

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

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