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Mourners Gather For Funeral Of Baton Rouge Police Officer Montrell Jackson

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

In Baton Rouge, Police Corporal Montrell Jackson was buried today. He was one of three officers killed in an ambush a week ago that followed the police shooting of a black man, Alton Sterling. Jackson, who was also black, had expressed concern and frustration over relations between the police and Baton Rouge's African-American community. Reporter Jesse Hardman has the story.

JESSE HARDMAN, BYLINE: Hours before the funeral of Montrell Jackson, 71-year-old Josephine Bellard sat across the street from the Living Faith Christian Center and recited the 91st Psalm in prayer.

JOSEPHINE BELLARD: I will say of the Lord he is my refuge and strength.

HARDMAN: Gathered outside the church for the arrival of Jackson's body, hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the U.S. and Canada were called to attention.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Attention.

HARDMAN: Inside the church, Jackson's wife, Trenisha, was the last to approach the coffin. She held their 4-month-old son Mason in her arms. Jackson's younger brother Kedrick Pitts stepped to the pulpit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEDRICK PITTS: All I wanted to do was be like you and do what you did. Now I can brag about you being an angel.

(APPLAUSE)

PITTS: While you're out patrolling in heaven, just stop by every now and then to say hey.

HARDMAN: The funeral program included a bookmark with text of a Facebook post Jackson published shortly after the police shooting death of Alton Sterling as protests consumed Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie said he'll forever be challenged by Jackson's words.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHIEF CARL DABADIE: I love my city, but sometimes I wonder if my city loves me. Well, Corporal Jackson, I hope from heaven you can feel this amazing show of love and support. Baton Rouge loves you.

(APPLAUSE)

HARDMAN: Like the police chief, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also referenced Montrell Jackson's words.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN BEL EDWARDS: He said these are trying times. Please don't let hate infect your heart. This city must and will get better.

HARDMAN: After the funeral, mourners headed to a nearby cemetery, and Jackson's widow, Trenisha, spoke to reporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRENISHA JACKSON: My husband deserves to wear his badge. He wore it with pride, dignity and honor.

HARDMAN: Trenisha Jackson called the past few weeks in Baton Rouge a tragic cycle beginning with the death of Alton Sterling and ending with her husband's funeral.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACKSON: I know that there is fear and unrest among those who feel like all police are bad. But please know and understand that not all police are bad.

HARDMAN: She said police who do wrong should be held accountable. But she said honor the good one like Montrell Jackson. For NPR News, I'm Jesse Hardman in Baton Rouge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.