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About 200 people clad in blue braved a raw spring night Friday to pray and sing in honor of fallen Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputy Justin DeRosier and support police and other emergency personnel.

“It’s shocking that it happened in our area,” Nick Herring of Longview said about the line-of-duty shooting that claimed the life of the 29-year-old deputy April 13. The 20-year military veteran said “we’ve got to show our support” for DeRosier and all law enforcement officers.

Shawn McClellan, holding a thin blue line flag, noted that DeRosier and his family have many friends in the area.

“This is a close-knit community. I’m very proud to be part of it. It hurts.”

The 30-minute ceremony, held at the new gazebo at R.A. Long Park, was organized by the Facebook group Cowlitz County News as the culmination of a “Back The Blue Friday.” Community members were encouraged to wear blue to show support for law enforcement in the aftermath of DeRosier’s death.

The wearing of blue is a reference to the “thin blue line,” a law enforcement metaphor for the role of law enforcement as a bulwark between order and chaos and between criminals and their potential victims.

Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha said he was “overwhelmed” by the turnout, “but it is not surprising. ... This is the kind of support we need.

Sheriff Brad Thurman told the gathering that “it is important that we stand and know that evil will not prevail in Cowlitz County.”

The audience joined a woman vocalist in “Amazing Grace,” and it applauded for the two Kalama officers who rescued DeRosier from the scene after he was shot.

Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Chaplain Mario Gambaro offered a prayer of support for all police and other emergency responders.

The event was the latest outpouring of local, regional and even national support and grief for DeRosier, 29, his wife, Katie, and their 5-month-old daughter Lilly. Flowers even were sent here from the New York Yankees baseball team.

The event’s Facebook page had indicated that more than 1,000 people signed up to wear blue on Friday.

Mourners have two other chances to pay their respects and participate in a community embrace: A remembrance walk starts at 1 p.m. at Martin Dock at Lake Sacajawea Saturday. The funeral is at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus, and a live stream feed of that service will be shown at New Life Church, 2441 42nd Ave., in Longview.

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