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WATCH VIDEO: Mourners line streets of Marshfield, Mo. to honor Webster County Sgt. Justin Burney

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 12:47 PM CDT
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MARSHFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -

“As first responders we’re all brothers and sisters.”

Those words from Niangua Fire Chief Shawn Ricks explained why there were large numbers of police, fire, and emergency vehicles from all over the state gathered at a Marshfield funeral home on Thursday to escort 26 year-old Justin Burney on his final journey through the area he once served as a Webster County Deputy.

Burney had started in law enforcement when he was just 18 years-old and served in a variety of roles from school resource officer to road deputy to shift commander. He had also worked for the Bolivar Police Department in-between his two stints at the Webster County Sheriff’s Office.

But last Thursday while off-duty, Burney’s white Kia was struck on I-44 near Marshfield by a Jeep driven by a man from Arizona who had been going in the opposite direction before veering into the median and tearing through a cable barrier into Burney’s path. Burney’s two children were in the car with him and his six year-old daughter was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital where she continues to recover from serious injuries.

“We do take comfort in that so many people have reached out to show support for him," said Webster Co. Sheriff Roye Cole who mentioned that Burney was to have been married next month. “He was loved.”

That love was on display as the hearse, accompanied by a long line of police, fire and ambulance vehicles, made its way through Marshfield from the funeral home to the cemetery. For miles along the route people lined the streets to pay their respects. Many of the mourners were waving American flags.

Among the groups showing their support was an area motorcycle group known as Itus-Virtus (the Greek God for the military representing courage, strength, honor and loyalty) that always shows up for veteran and law enforcement funerals.

“We just couldn’t visualize the effect of the family members not knowing that other people do care about them," said the group’s founder and president Robert Shawley.

Another group with a large turn-out represented area tow truck companies who are usually working alongside law enforcement at accident scenes.

“We’re out there on the side of the road trying to help people and it really sucks to have to work one (accident) where law enforcement is involved in it whether it be on-duty or off-duty,” said Brandon Richards with the Marshfield Towing Service.

Ricks, Niangua’s Fire Chief, was among 11 members of the Niangua Fire Department on hand to pay tribute to Burney, who was a graduate of Niangua High School. Ricks said the community was very impressed with Burney for choosing a career of service to others.

“They’re heartbroken," Ricks said of the town’s reaction to the news. "Especially when it’s somebody so young and we don’t expect them to go young. So it really touches everybody’s heart in the community.”

You could tell there were a lot of hearts hurting on this emotional day as we all got another somber reminder that whether they’re on-or-off duty, those who protect us are in harm’s way every day.

“I think that’s the shocking part because we know our husbands could be hurt in the line of duty but he wasn’t,” said Aubrea Dudley, whose husband works in law enforcement. “That’s hard to wrap our minds around right now. I knew his fiance from school and knew how excited she was. We’re numb.”

“It hurts," Ricks added. “And it’s also a wake up call to our family members that something can happen in a split minute and it can’t be changed.”

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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