The sight of the flagged-draped casket of N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Bobby Gene DeMuth Jr. was an emotional experience for everyone Wednesday morning. It brought many law enforcement officers to tears and visibly shook his family.
DeMuth, 42, was hit and killed Saturday while attempting to stop a suspect wanted in connection with an assault, kidnapping and robbery in Raleigh. Christopher McCoy Rodgers, 40, of Williamston was charged with murder and 18 other charges related to the incident.
“Every one here and people all across this great state can certainly see that Gene’s death was a tragic and senseless event,” said N.C. Highway Patrol Capt. Wayne Taylor, Troop C commander. “However, through all the hurt, the pain, the lack of understanding as to why, we are already seeing results of his untimely death.”
Taylor and other speakers at DeMuth’s funeral at Englewood Baptist Church focused on the outpouring of support from law enforcement across the country and the community.
“The one thing that needs to come out of all of this, whether in law enforcement or in the community, you need to take the time to tell your loved ones you love them,” N.C. Highway Patrol First Sgt. Jeff Gordon said. “We live in such a fast-paced society that sometimes we get caught up in our day-to-day activities, but we need to take the time to slow down because life is too precious.”
Lt. Steven Finney, who was commandant of the training school when DeMuth joined the N.C. Highway Patrol, said DeMuth’s never-fading smile initially drove him nuts. Their shared U.S. Marine Corps background combined with DeMuth’s determination made the time at the school memorable, he said. When it came time for graduation, Finney said he was proud to be the first to call him Trooper Bobby Gene DeMuth.
“When I stepped in front of him and put that badge on him for the first time, a tear was rolling down from his eye,” Finney said. “You could see his pride. It was an emotional tear that he had done it, he’d accomplished what he set out to do.”
He challenged the nearly 1,700 people in attendance to honor DeMuth’s legacy by “living our lives the way he lived his every single day.”
“We are now left with nothing but our memories and our thoughts, but rest assured that Gene is always going to be in our hearts,” he said. “He is in heaven now patrolling heaven’s highways, and I know he is grinning from ear to ear.”
After the service, a processional of family, friends and coworkers drove to Red Oak Cemetery as hundreds of people lined the streets. Gordon said businesses had employees standing with their hands over their hearts while residents stood on their porches or outside their cars waving American flags.
“It was really uplifting for all the law enforcement to see the support the community has for what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Gordon said. “It was absolutely amazing. I was speechless and it is something I will always remember.”
DeMuth leaves behind his wife, Michelle, and 8-year-old son, Trevor.