PORTLAND-- Thousands gathered inside Memorial Coliseum Thursday for a powerful and moving ceremony celebrating the life and sacrifice of a slain Oregon City reserve officer.
Friends, family and police from around the state and country came together as a show of solidarity and support for Robert Libke, 41, who was shot to death on Nov. 5.
Supporters filed into Memorial Coliseum after a somber 21-mile procession from Oregon City. The ceremony, ‘A Celebration of Life,’ was filled with a messages of support, remembrance and a devastating sense of loss.
Libke, a volunteer reserve police officer, died after he was allegedly shot by 88-year-old Lawrence Cambra. Libke was responding to a house fire in Oregon City when he was killed. He was the first Oregon City officer to die in the line of duty since 1906.
Libke received full honors in Thursday’s event which was festooned with military rituals for fallen soldiers, some dating back to the Civil War.
More: Emotional procession
Portland Police's Mounted Patrol led a riderless horse with a pair of boots reversed in the stirrups outside the coliseum. Inside Libke received a 21-gun-salute, two officers played ‘Echo Taps’ and a tri-folded American flag was presented to Libke’s wife and mother.
He posthumously received the Medal of Ultimate Sacrifice, the Medal of Valor, the Purple Heart and the Chief’s Medal of Merit. Oregon City Police Chief Jim Brand stated he believed that Libke’s confrontation with the armed suspect saved the lives of a woman and two children.
“After he [the suspect] lit the house on fire, he turned his attention to his neighbors,” Band said. He believed Cambra was attempting to break into a house and get at a woman and her two granddaughters. "Rob made the ultimate sacrifice to save the life of those people.”
Letters to Libke from his families and friends were read aloud.
"He's the guy who would go after the bear... with no fear," wrote Libke’s friend David Morales. "You will always be my brother from another mother."
A slideshow, choreographed to some of Libke’s favorite music, flashed before two large screens and featured images from his childhood to the present day.
More: Family of slain Ore. officer Libke thanks community
The ceremony culminated as a lone bagpiper, playing Amazing Grace, made his way through the mourners.
The piper was then joined by a dozen more from the Highland Guard in a wailing chorus that overwhelmed the room with sound.
The song faded and the disembodied voice of a police dispatcher, reaching out to her fallen comrade, pierced the silence.
"Status check? Status check? Status check?” echoed in the dark. “Officer Robert Libke is a negative contact… Robert Libke: Gone but never forgotten.”
An arresting stillness filled the room and the officer’s casket was taken out to a rolling salute by the Oregon Honor Guard.
A message from Libke’s family, written in the ceremony’s program read:
"Our family would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the unbelievable acts of kindness and sacrifice by Rob's fellow officers, our friends, and many people who we may never meet in person."
The service was organized with help from the nonprofit Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation. Anyone wishing to help support the foundation can click here to donate.
The Clackamas County Peace Officers' Benevolent Foundation has also set up a donation fund to help Officer Libke's family. Click here for more
Photo of Highland Guard by Thomas Boyd, courtesy of The Oregonian. More from our news partner.