McDOWELL COUNTY, N.C. -- Family, friends, and western North Carolina's law enforcement community paid their respects under rainy skies Sunday to the family of fallen officer Jason Crisp.
A steady drizzle fell outside West Court Baptist Church in Marion, as dozens of police cars parked and uniformed officers from nearby agencies stepped out and onto the church's pillared porch.
It was as if the sky was crying, agreed Caldwell County Sheriff Alan Jones.
"You mentioned it's raining -- there's a good reason for that," said Jones. "We lost a great officer."
Officer Jason Crisp died Wednesday during a manhunt for a killer in Burke County. Crisp, an officer with the U.S. Forest Service in the Grandfather Ranger District, patrolled the woods of five mountain counties with his K-9 Maros, who was also killed.
Caldwell County was one of those areas, and Sheriff Jones knew Crisp well. Losing him reminds Jones and his deputies of the dangers they face every day.
"Our hearts are heavy at the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office," said Jones. "Every time we go out, we don't know if we'll be back or not. One thing's for sure -- the law enforcement family is strong and we support each other."
You could see that support Sunday in Crisp's hometown of Marion, where Crisp's son is a police explorer and Crisp was known as someone who was always ready to share his time and expertise.
"Jason was just a wonderful person, family man, Christian man," said Marion Police Corporal Danny Braswell. "He would do anything in the world for anybody -- and that's just the person he was."
Even veterans made strong by years in law enforcement couldn't help but feel emotional on the day they prepared to say goodbye to a colleague and friend.
"You don't know what to feel," said Braswell. "You feel emptiness because he's gone. You feel an emptiness for his family. You don't know why such a good person was taken from you -- so there's a lot of sadness."
Officer Jason Crisp's funeral is Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. at McDowell High School, his alma mater, and is open to the public. The school will let out at noon so everyone who knew him can attend.
Burial will be in a private ceremony after the funeral.