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Throng attends service for slain police officer

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By Jill King Greenwood
Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011
 

His brother called him a hero. His father spoke of his compassion. And more than 1,000 of his fellow police officers, friends and well-wishers lined the streets of Washington on Friday to honor and mourn him.

They assembled at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church for the funeral of East Washington Police Department Officer David Dryer, 46, who was killed in the line of duty Sunday night.

"David, I don't know if I ever told you this, but you were my hero in eighth grade, on Dec. 18th, today and tomorrow," Dryer's brother, Dean Dryer, said during his eulogy. "I miss you, and I love you. Rest in peace, my brother."

Every pew in the church, one of the largest in the city, was filled, and officers crammed into the back and side aisles. Crowds were directed to an overflow room in the basement, where they could hear the service on speakers.

Afterward, uniformed officers from across the state stood at solemn attention as pallbearers carried Dryer's flag-draped casket from the church and police bagpipers played "Amazing Grace."

A 90-minute procession involving more than 750 private and police vehicles and motorcycles wound 11 miles to West Middleton Cemetery for Dryer's burial.

Dryer, 46, died after a man shot him during a traffic stop for expired plates along Interstate 70 in South Strabane. Officer Robert Caldwell, who provided backup, was shot in the right hand.

The gunman, Eli Franklin Myers III, who fled to his Rostraver home then came out firing after a 10-hour standoff, died from a police sharpshooter's bullet.

Caldwell, 46, said he and Dryer, of Claysville, met in first grade and became "lifelong friends."

He said Dryer put the needs of others above his own and while on the job worried about the safety of his fellow officers.

"His only thought (on Sunday night) was to warn me about what was going to happen before it happened. I am truly honored to have called David my friend," Caldwell said.

Officer Richard Joyce of the Pennsylvania Game Commission -- for whom Dryer previously was an enforcement officer -- called Dryer "the kind of man all of us parents hope our sons will grow up to be."

Dryer grew up on a farm in Avella, and his father, John, said that is where he first developed his love of animals. For the past 10 years, Dryer, who was also a veterinarian, owned and operated the Chestnut Veterinary Clinic in Washington.

"He had such total, deep compassion for people and animals," John Dryer said of his son.

Officer Dryer was an East Washington police officer for two years and before that was an officer for Donegal Township and Midway. He was certified in police K-9 training and tracking with bloodhounds, and was a longtime member of the West Middletown Fire Department.

He is survived by his son, Benjamin David Dryer, his parents, John and JoAnn Dryer, his brother Dean and a sister, Beth Nijenhuis.

"My heart is broken," Nijenhuis said.

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