CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- The family of Officer Fred Thornton received friends at First Baptist Church in Uptown for visitation Monday evening.
Even before the official visitation hours, dozens of Officer Thornton's colleagues had arrived to stand at attention as his coffin was carried inside the church.
SWAT officer Fred Thornton, 50, died Friday after a flash bang device he'd been putting away accidentally exploded. The father of four was just months from retirement.
Monday, CMPD brought in four busloads full of fellow officers and their families who entered the church to pay their respects. Other law enforcement officers from other agencies traveled to Charlotte as well.
NewsChannel 36 spoke with Panthers fan John Pace who says he became very friendly with Officer Thornton because he patrolled the field right in front of his regular seat.
Pace drove from Asheville to pay his respects.
On the hot days he would bring us Gatorade from the players coolers. He was just a nice man. I think he's a shining example of what the police force would want their officers to be like, Pace said.
Retired officer Ronnie Stinson last saw Thornton on Super Bowl Sunday. He was excited about retirement, he remembered.
Friends who went inside the church say Thornton's wife Linda, and their four children, are doing the best they can under the circumstances.
A procession from Mint Hill to Uptown Charlotte stopped traffic throughout the area Monday afternoon, as Officer Thornton's body was carried to the church for the visitation.
His funeral will be at First Baptist Church Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. There will also be a procession Tuesday morning before the funeral.