LUMBERTON — Thousands of people stood shoulder to shoulder on hot Lumberton asphalt on Tuesday to pay tribute to slain Master Police Officer Jeremiah Montgomery Goodson Jr. as he made his final trip down Fayetteville Road.
“This is a time when everybody needs to come together,” said Fairmont resident Thurman Smith, who watched as Goodson’s casket, draped with an American flag, was carried on a wagon pulled by four horses beneath a memorial near the Shell service station were he was shot and killed last week.
“It’s a tragedy, and a sad situation for the community to come together for, but I’m glad we are able to stand here together today,” Smith said.
Some of the more than 3,000 people who waited for Goodson’s casket to pass them on Fayetteville Road stood under umbrellas to find relief from the blazing sun that pushed temperatures into the mid-90s.
“He was a good man,” said Tamika McDonald, who is a neighbor of Goodson’s father, Jerry Goodson and mother, Bettie. “We’ll miss him.”
Goodson’s three-mile funeral procession — from Lumberton High School westward to his final resting place at Gardens of Faith Cemetery — included hundreds of officers and sheriff’s deputies from as far west as the mountains of Asheville and as far east as the beaches of Kure and Carolina. Members of law enforcement filled the 1,800-seat auditorium at the high school, where Goodson’s family looked on as various speakers remembered how he lived — and how he died.
“One week ago, on Tuesday, … an angel from Heaven whispered to Jeremiah Montgomery Goodson Jr., ‘your civic duty on Earth has come to an end,’” Lumberton Police Chief Mike McNeill said as a chorus of “amens” rang out from mourners gathered in the school’s gymnasium, where the two-hour service was projected via a live audio and video feed.
“He was a courageous man, carrying out his civic duty,” he said. “When one of us leaves this world, we all leave. When one bleeds, we all bleed.”
Maurice Miles, who also spoke at the funeral, said that he looked up to his younger cousin and was “proud of him for more reasons than one.”
“Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the young,” he said as he wiped away tears. “Jeremiah was a hero in every sense of the word.”
Goodson, who was off duty, was shot and killed on July 17 while attempting to serve a warrant for the arrest of 27-year-old Marques Brown, who is accused of shooting Goodson mulitiple times as he approached Brown’s vehicle. District Attorney Johnson Britt said he would seek the death penalty for Brown, who has been charged with first-degree murder.
Photos of the 32-year-old Goodson in a booklet distributed to funeral-goers show him squinting in the sun for snapshots as a child; posing for photos with his own children, Jurnee Amiah Goodson and Tyrin Hueston; and helping his pregnant wife, Lametria, open presents at the couple’s baby shower for an unborn son who will be named Josiah Malachi.
Goodson had been employed with the Lumberton Police Department since June 14, 2006. Goodson’s obituary said his nickname was “Chucky” and described him as a “great father, loving husband and son.”
Goodson’s parents, sister Isis, brother Joshua, grandmother Katie, and others Goodson leaves behind “will need your thoughts and prayers tonight, they’ll need your thoughts and prayers tomorrow,” Lumberton Mayor Raymond Pennington told the crowd. “They’ll need your thoughts and prayers the next night, the next night, and onward.”
Sitting in folding metal chairs facing the casket, under the shade of a burial tent at Goodson’s final resting place, the family members comforted each other as bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” — and as Goodson’s paster, Syvalla Washington, echoed Pennington’s thoughts.
“When everybody goes home, and all this is over, the family is going to need your prayers,” she said. “… When you go to bed at night, remember them. When you rise up in the morning, remember them.”
The silence after seven men each fired three volleys was broken by a police radio calling Goodson’s patrol car No. 45 for the last time.
Lametria Goodson, clutching a single red rose, sobbed as she placed her hand over McNeill’s as he handed her the folded flag that was laid across Goodson’s casket. As McNeill walked away, she brought the flag to her chest and hugged it tightly.