IMAGES: Thousands attend funeral for slain Ky. trooper Joseph Po - WDRB 41 Louisville News

IMAGES: Thousands attend funeral for slain Ky. trooper Joseph Ponder

Updated:

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) - Thousands of people -- including hundreds of law enforcement officers from as far away as California and Australia -- have gathered at Severns Valley Baptist Church for the funeral of fallen Kentucky State Police trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder.

The church, which has a capacity of 1,100, was filled. Every seat was filled and officers stood along the sides and the back of the church to honor the fallen officer.

Ponder, 31, a native of Rineyville, was shot and killed following a traffic stop Sept. 13 in southwestern Kentucky. 

"We are here to honor a hero," said Casey Martin, a police officer from Texas who drove 1,000 miles to attend the funeral. "It's times like this that we must all stick together."

The funeral was scheduled to begin at 11am, but those inside were still awaiting the arrival of Ponder and his family at 11:30 a.m.

Outside the church, more than 1,000 police cars are parked and are expected to take part in the procession leaving the church to the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery in Fort Knox. 

Members of the community are asked to line the procession route on U.S. 31 from the church to the cemetery. 

"It's a sign of people's respect," Elizabethtown resident Tom Smith said.

Signs in front of businesses read "Thoughts and prayers Trooper Ponder" and "In loving memory of Trooper Ponder.”

"It's been overwhelming," said Kentucky State Police Lt. Jeremy Thompson.

The signs of reverence are along Dixie Blvd. in Hardin County. It’s the procession route Trooper Ponder will be carried on to the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery.

"We encourage them to come out either to the service or either be somewhere along the route to the cemetery and to make signs, hold a flag, to stand there with their heart over their chest," said Eric Johnson with Supporting Heroes.

"We look at it like it could be one of us tomorrow or tonight or whenever, said Officer Kevin Grimes with the Nicholasville, Ky., Police Department. "And so it’s as hard as if I knew him or if I didn't know him ... It’s still the same."

"Those people put their life on the line. I think it's a sign of respect ... People really, truly know that this young man with his family have given up a lot," Smith said.

Allan Tiffany, Ponder's step-father, spoke of Ponder's sacrifice and the support he leaves behind during Friday's service.

"When I look out here today, I know Cameron will never be alone," Tiffany said. "He always wanted to help ... wanted to be strong for his family."

KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer added during the service that Ponder's void will always be felt, both from his colleagues and his friends and family.

"Our world will never be the same," Brewer said. "He is a true hero, not because of how he died, but how he lived."

But as the community and law enforcement mourn over a hero's life cut short, its support from one another that keeps them going.

"It's just unfortunate that it has to be tragedy to bring us together like that. But when you see the outpouring of support from law enforcement, from the community here ... what it does is it helps people heal. It helps the family heal, it helps law enforcement and helps the community especially," Lt. Thompson said.

Trooper Ponder will be buried at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Friday afternoon.

Ponder had initially pulled over a black Dodge Avenger driven by Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks of Florissant, Missouri, for speeding on Interstate 24 near the 58 mile marker after 10pm on Sept. 13.

A KSP spokesman said Ponder had been arranging for overnight lodging for the suspects fellow travelers, including two children, when suddenly, Johnson-Shanks took off.

Moments later, Johnson-Shanks stopped his vehicle and shot Ponder. After a short manhunt, Johnson-Shanks was also shot and killed by police when he refused to drop his weapon.

Ponder, a Navy veteran, had been on the state police force less than a year. He was taken to a hospital, where he died shortly before midnight.

During a candlelight vigil held Wednesday night at North Hardin High School, Ponder's family members talked about his time with the Navy and that he wanted to continue to serve his country, which is why he became a trooper.

This story will be updated. 

Related:

Three-hour-long procession honors fallen KSP Trooper

Loved ones remember Kentucky State Police trooper shot and killed in Lyon County

Funeral arrangements, motorcade route for KSP Trooper shot and killed in Lyon County

Signs and flags line procession route as slain KSP Trooper will be buried Friday

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