Indianapolis, Ind. Indianapolis, Ind. The Hoosier State is in mourning Thursday. An Indianapolis Police Officer killed while trying to save a woman's life, will be laid to rest.
Nappanee native, 41-year-old Rod Bradway was a five year veteran of the Indianapolis Police force.
Fellow officers say he died a hero, shot after kicking down an apartment door in response to screams from a woman held at gunpoint by an ex-boyfriend.
The funeral began at 11 a.m. Thursday with officers escorting Bradway's body to Banker's Life Fieldhouse. Bradway’s widow and children were greeted by a reception of police officers lining the pavilion to the arena. It was a service fit for a fallen hero—which is exactly what Bradway was called.
Thousands waited inside the arena to pay their respects, including Governor Mike Pence, Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard and the mayor of Nappanee, Larry Thompson who each offered words of thanks and praise for Bradway’s sacrifice.
The entire service and ceremony started being planned the moment the State FOP Incident Team heard about the tragic shooting. South Bend Honor Guard member Detective Sgt. Gene Eyster was one of the officers who arrived in Indianapolis days in advance to prepare.
According to Eyster, Indiana has a model for police funerals mirrored by many other states. Each organizer plays a particular role, from coordinating how the hundreds of police cars will fit on the streets, to passing out the honor guards red braids and white carnations.
“Everything has symbolism in a police officer’s funeral: the red braid that you see stands for the blood that was shed by the officer, the flowers that you see the white is the purity in the profession and the red speck that you see is the fallen officer,” Eyster explained.
But beyond the ceremonial traditions, Eyster said the outpouring of officers from across the area—including Nappanee, Elkhart, South Bend and Mishawaka police departments—and the country is the way officers honor those killed in the line of duty.
“It is emotional for all of us at times. Period,” said St. Joseph County’s public information officer Bill Redman, who recently joined in on officer funeral preparations, “We lost one of our fellow brothers, we all have to come together and support one another.
The response was echoed throughout the day, that police everywhere are one, big family.
“They talk about the thin blue line, that’s what it is, when one of us bleeds, we all bleed” said South Bend Police Dept.’s Sgt. Bill Kraus.
Among the crowd of thousands of officers was a strong contingency of Nappanee natives. Close family friends rode down on a bus paid for by Nappanee’s mayor. Together they visited Bradway’s family and were escorted into Baker’s Life Fieldhouse to view the ceremony.
Fred Myers was Bradway’s high school track coach. He said that he will forever remember how good of a person Bradway was, and the legacy he left at school.
“Rod I always pictured as a cowboy with a white hat that was going to ride in at the last minute and save the day,” said Myers. When the Nappanee community heard about Bradway’s death they said they weren’t shocked Bradway died trying to save someone else—he was a bit of a local hero.
As a fallen hero Bradway’s casket was escorted by hundreds of police cars and motorcycles in a funeral procession spanning several miles long. Along the way, people who never knew Bradway stood by the side of the road to pay their own respects.