|Birth: ||Feb. 12, 1960, USA|
|Death: ||Apr. 23, 1987|
Thousands Mourn Deaths Of 2 Officers
Orlando Sentinel, Orlando, Florida -- April 29, 1987|By Cory Jo Lancaster and David Scruggs of The Sentinel Staff
PALM BAY — Past thousands of grim-faced residents who poured out of local shops and homes holding flags aloft, a 360-car funeral procession for two slain Palm Bay police officers moved slowly by the scene of their deaths.
Traffic backed up for miles as people struggled to catch a glimpse, some atop stores in the two shopping centers where a gunman had killed six people and injured 12 others during a shooting rampage Thursday night.
It took an hour for the 1,600 law enforcement officers from 130 agencies to travel the 2-mile route from St. Joseph's Catholic Church to Fountainhead Memorial Cemetery, where officers Gerald Johnson and Ronald Grogan were buried Tuesday afternoon.
During the funeral service, where more than half the police officers waited under shade trees outside the packed church, Gov. Bob Martinez told the officers' families: ''At a moment like this it is always hard to find the right words to express the sorrow we feel. On behalf of the people of the state of Florida, I'm here to express that sorrow.''
Other officials attending were local legislators, State Attorney General Bob Butterworth, Florida Highway Patrol director Col. Bobby Burkett and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Director Robert Dempsey.
Later, several legislators said they doubt the shooting will cause them to reconsider a proposed gun control bill.
Also seated around Johnson's and Grogan's survivors were the families of other victims from Thursday's massacre and of Palm Bay Officer Steve Pollack, 22, and Melbourne Officer Steve Pellicano, 29, both of whom died last year.
''We would like to say that we understand your pain. But we don't,'' said a woman speaking for other Palm Bay officers' wives. While presenting a bouquet of roses to Laura Grogan and Ella Johnson, the spokeswoman said, ''What we see is the pain in your face, the terror in your eyes and know that only time will diminish those.''
A fellow officer, Dave Fowler, said few officers knew the two; both were hired less than a year ago. He described Johnson, 28, as a quiet, simple man who never complained, ''but he did have a keen, dry country wit that at times was almost piercing.''
''Just a few weeks ago, Gerry confided in me that, 'This job is the most fun I ever had.' I saw through his sarcasm and saw that some of what he was saying was true.''
Palm Bay Police Chief Charles Simmons said Johnson told him he had wanted to be a police officer ever since he was a child growing up in the small North Florida community of Mayo.
According to personnel files, Johnson, a former Army infantryman with special training in the use of small weapons, was hired May 5, 1986, into the $16,000-a-year job. He married his wife, Ella, 23, 2 1/2 years ago.
The job he won cost him his life Thursday because he never had a chance to pull his revolver when he drove into gunfire from a semi-automatic rifle. Prosecutors say the gunman, identified as William Cruse of Palm Bay, shot Johnson eight times.
Fowler described Grogan, who joined the force Oct. 6, as an outgoing and meticulous man.
''He possessed an endless stream of energy,'' Fowler said. ''He was a bright young man who was quick to pick the minds of the more veteran men. He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.''
Grogan entered law enforcement after working a string of local pizza restaurants since 1978. He had just married his wife, Laura, 25, in February. ''When the time came, Ronnie placed his car between the gunman and himself and the citizens of this community and died defending them,'' Simmons said.
''Gerry placed his car in the same position and did the same. You can ask no more or no less of any police officer anywhere.''
The service ended with the families taking a few private moments with the two flag-covered silver caskets placed beneath the altar inside the church.
Then the 360 cars, with blue and red lights flashing, were led to the cemetery by three Palm Bay police cars with their lights shrouded in black.
Johnson will be buried in the cemetery's Garden of Peace, Grogan in the Garden of the Apostles.
Their burial rites began with buglers playing Taps, then a rifle salute. It climaxed with a police radio dispatcher taking the officers' radio identification numbers out of service:
''On Thursday, April 23, 1987, between 1830 hours and 1900 hours Officer Ronald Grogan, I.D. 80, and Gerald Johnson, I.D. 67, were shot and killed in the line of duty,'' the voice crackled over the loudspeaker. ''I.D. 80 and I.D. 67 are 10-7.''
Killed In The Line Of Duty
Fountainhead Memorial Park
Plot: Garden of Apostles, Sect. D, Lot 152-1
Created by: Jean Whelan Booton
Record added: Jun 16, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 91998700