LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- He was a man who cherished his family, had an enormous number of friends and passionately served the Louisville community as a peacekeeper for just over three years and on Tuesday, thousands of people paid tribute to fallen LMPD Officer Nick Rodman.

"One of Nick's values was compassion, and he learned it at the Rodman family dinner table," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told those who gathered at Southeast Christian Church. "Nick was one of those cops who kept teddy bears in his patrol car to give to kids he encountered on the job who needed some comfort. One afternoon, Nick went into a store and came out with a big box of Popsicles to give to all the kids in the neighborhood.

"That was the standard Nick set for himself as a police officer and public servant and as a human being," Fischer said. "My hope for us as a community is that through this tragedy with our hearts broken open, people see police officers more clearly as fellow human beings. People who love like them, people who cry like them and most of all -- people who deserve their support, respect and appreciation." 

Rodman, 30, was killed in the line of duty on March 29, a day after sustaining injuries in a crash during a high-speed chase involving a suspect who is accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and firing shots at her as he drove away. That man is now charged with Rodman's murder, as well as a long list of other charges.

After a week of mourning and numerous tributes including a memorial and candlelight vigil in downtown Louisville on Sunday and a seven-hour visitation on Monday, Rodman was eulogized on Tuesday by retired LMPD officer and volunteer chaplain Bill Weedman, LMPD Officer Rick Beahl and LMPD Police Chief Steve Conrad.

"I, like you, am still reeling from the events of the last Tuesday and Wednesday," Conrad said. "We all share a profound sense of loss ... but we need to use our time together as an opportunity to honor Nick's life. He will never, ever be forgotten."

Rodman was born in Louisville on Jan. 6, 1987, the first-born son of LMPD police officer George and Linda Rodman. He would later became a big brother to Andy, and to a sister, Carly.

He graduated from Holy Cross High School in 2005 with a 4.0 GPA. While there, Rodman was an all-district, all-region football player, as well as an all-star soccer player. He went on to play soccer and study at Georgetown College, where he was vice-president of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and graduated with a degree in kinesiology in 2009.

It was during college, family members say, that he met the love of his life, Ashley. They were married in September 2013 and according to Rodman's obituary, they adopted two dogs named Mojo and Lily, who they considered their children until the birth of their son, Mason, 2, and Ellie Jean, who was three weeks old at the time of her father's death.

During his funeral, Beahl spoke of Rodman's background -- of how he came from a family of law enforcement members, adding that he was raised by "two of the best parents God has to offer."

"Nick followed in the footsteps of his Dad and brother, which I know made George extremely proud," Beahl said.

But nothing matched Rodman's love for his wife and children, Beahl said. 

"According to George, Nick enjoyed being a husband and dad more than anything else in life," Beahl said, adding that Rodman would often take his children on long walks, even after lengthy 12-hour shifts. 

It was during those shifts that Rodman showed compassion for his community and "lead by example," Beahl said.

In recent days, the department has "heard numerous stories about Nick, stories that I and everyone else was totally unaware of," Beahl said.

Among them, an elderly man from the Portland neighborhood whose car ran out of gas. Beahl said the man told him of how Rodman showed up and pushed his car out of the road by himself. When the elderly man apologized for not being able to help, due to a medical issue, Rodman not only pushed the car out of the road, he paid for the man's gas.

There was also the time Rodman encountered a domestic violence victim he found walking in the cold, Beahl said. 

"She was seven months pregnant, had no money and was left with nothing to eat," he said. "In true Nick fashion, he bought food for the lady and made sure she had shelter from the cold."

And then there was the letter LMPD received from a man who Rodman had arrested.

"The man said Nick took the time to talk to him, listen to his problems," Beahl said. "The man went on to say since that night, he has been trouble free and because of Nick, he has turned his life around."

A video montage of photographs played during the funeral showed Rodman from the time he was a baby, throughout his childhood years and as he went on to high school and college. The photographs also showed his love for the Louisville Cardinals, as well as his devotion to Ashley and their two children.

That montage was followed with a song written and sung by Louisville native Stephen Gould in honor of Rodman. Family members heard the song, entitled "Nick Rodman's City," earlier this week and asked Gould to sing at the funeral.

Following the hour-long service, more than 600 police cars and hundreds of others led the 11-mile procession from Southeast Christian to Cave Hill Cemetery.

As the cars traveled down Interstate 64 from Blankenbaker Parkway and exited off Grinstead Drive, motorists stopped. Firefighters from surrounding areas covered every highway overpass and thousands of people stood with American flags and blue ribbons. Community members -- young and old -- saluted and held signs calling Rodman a hero.

During graveside services, Rodman's casket was carried in by a horse-drawn carriage to the tunes of somber bag pipes and the presence of a riderless horse as hundreds of officers stood in formation. 

Grief, pain and respect filled the air as Rodman was buried with full honors, including a 21-gun salute, the playing of "Taps" and a final radio call that echoed throughout the cemetery.

Rodman's mother and wife were both presented with American flags that had covered the fallen officer's white casket. Officers from his LMPD First Division platoon took the white carnations that had been pinned to their badges and placed them in a straight line on top of the casket as they saluted him.

At the conclusion of the service, Rodman's father -- a longtime LMPD officer -- stood alone with his head bowed and right hand on the casket for several minutes before he was comforted by fellow officers and then escorted away from the grave site.

Rodman, the second LMPD officer to die in the line of duty.

Aside from his wife, children and parents, Rodman is also survived by his grandfather, Joe "Papa Joe" Ellis. He was the son-in-law of Christy and Jim Coe and Greg and Lori Stigall, brother-in-law to Tim Stigall and uncle to Jameson Stigall. Nick is also survived by numerous other aunts, uncles, cousins and other loving family members.

Those wishing to make a donation to the Rodman family to please do so through the Louisville Metro Police Officers Credit Union, the LMPD Foundation or by any other means specifically endorsed by the Rodman family.

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Reporter Antoinette "Toni" Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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