The casket of Urbandale officer Justin Martin.

The casket of Urbandale officer Justin Martin.

Thousands gathered in Rockwell City today to salute the Urbandale Police officer who was shot to death nearly a week ago as he sat in his squad car.

The song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was among those played as hundreds of Officer Justin Martin’s colleagues and other uniformed officers filed past his casket.

Arthur McClanahan, communications director of the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, opened the funeral with these words: “Most gracious and loving God, we are here this morning with hearts bursting with grief. One of your very good ones, one of your young ones — Justin Martin — has died. His life ended too soon, very tragically.”

Martin was just 24 years old. Urbandale Officer Brady Farrington and Martin grew up together in Rockwell City.

“Justin stood for justice, for all of God’s children, no matter what their sin was,” Farrington said in an emotional tribute. “Justin was our hero. He was my hero.”

Officers filled the gym at Justin Martin's funeral.

Officers filled the gym at Justin Martin’s funeral.

Farrington said he “woke up to a nightmare” last Wednesday morning when he got the phone call, then a visit from a chaplain who confirmed his life-long friend had been murdered.

“I’ve know Justin my entire life,” Farrington said. “Justin was a kind soul. He was a hard worker, a fierce competitor, studious academic, a loving son and grandson, a dutiful brother, a respectful listener,” Farrington said, “and professional protector.”

AUDIO of Office Farrington’s remarks, 9:15

Martin joined the Urbandale Police force in 2015 and was promoted to full-time officer status just this past August. Urbandale Police Chief Ross McCarty opened his brief remarks by stressing the funeral was meant to be a “celebration of a good young man’s life.”

“Justin was a good Christian man…We hired Justin because, as with the rest of the men and women I’ve had the privilege to work with at UPD, he was a man of integrity,” McCarty said, his voice wavering with emotion. “We were not prepared to have Justin’s life stolen from us. All of us here feel that pain.”

The chief did not say the name of the man who’s charged with murdering Martin and Des Moines Police Sergeant Anthony Beminio last week. McCarty, though, made it clear who he was talking about after he mentioned the “big, loving, dysfunctional family” of law enforcement.

“When an outsider decides to pick on our sister or brother, we’ll pick up that fight with them,” McCarty said. “You may be able to defeat our brothers, but we’ll continue to fight until we complete our oath to our communities and just has been served.”

AUDIO of chief’s remarks, 7:47

The funeral was held in the South Central Calhoun Middle School gymnasium. It started at 11:40 a.m. Martin’s badge number was 1140. Officer Farrington mentioned that number as he talked of his friend responding to God’s call last Wednesday.

“On a rainy November morning, amidst God’s tears, I can only imagine it sounded something like this: “Urbandale Pin 11-40…Justin, my son, it’s time to come home.” “Officer Justin Scott Martin, Urbandale 11-40, en route,'” Farrington said to conclude his remarks.

The crowd stood for nearly 45 minutes at the start of the service, until the tattoo of bagpipes and drums rang through the gym. Reverend Anita Bane of the United Methodist Church in Rockwell City spoke of the family’s focus on their sustaining faith in the face of this tragedy.

“Oh dear God, we come to you with such mixed feelings, but one of them is gratitude,” she said, “gratitude for Justin’s faith…and we are grateful for the unseen things of hope and love which are eternal.”

The closing prayer included a plea for “peace…beyond the anger” over the “shocking” way Martin had died.