A horse-drawn caisson carried the body of Cleveland Police officer Justin Maples to his final resting place Thursday afternoon.
The two-wheeled carriage was followed by family, friends and law enforcement colleagues as they climbed the hill to the grave for the officer who died Sunday evening in a patrol car crash while he was responding to back up another officer during a reported felony.
The hills along Hilcrest Gardens were lined with law enforcement and representatives of every emergency service agency. At the end of a parade of emergency vehicles and a short service where Cleveland Chief of Police Wes Snyder presented Danielle Maples with the U.S. flag which draped his coffin, a 911 dispatcher’s voice broke the silence.
“3388 ... 3388 ... Bradley County 911 to 3388 ... May 20, 2012, Badge No. 231, end of watch. May you rest in peace.”
The funeral, which was held at First Baptist Church, was filled with members of the law enforcement community from across various parts of the state and across state lines.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland gave the opening eulogy. It is published verbatim.
“In my childhood, there were a lot of heroes — Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy. Of course, later I realized these were actors and not the real thing. Young people today have their own idols and they are not real either.
“On Sunday night, around 9:30, Officer Justin Maples became a real hero. Not only among his peers and all of our citizens, but especially to Jace, Jacobi, Declan and of course to Danielle, Brittany, Barry and Charlene Maples.
“The boys will grow up to hear many people tell them about their Dad, who will always be to them a genuine example of a father, husband and son. Justin will always walk tall in their memories.
“To his fellow officers, Justin has set the standards for excellence to protect and serve. All I’ve heard over the past several hours is that Justin did not avoid danger, but wanted to be first on the scene. Especially if it was to back up a brother or sister with a badge. That’s what he was doing when he made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Cleveland Police Chief Wes Snyder described it best when he said, ‘Justin was respectful, loyal and dedicated … that’s how he conducted business with the public and his fellow officers.’
“Justin was concerned about his family’s well being and their future. Because he would want his three sons to achieve their best in life, Cleveland 100 is prepared to provide a scholarship for each of them. Brenda Lawson, president of Cleveland 100 and myself, met with the family and discussed that option, which will be a lasting show of love from this community. Cleveland 100 was founded to assist families of emergency services personnel if they should lose their life in the line of duty. It is our sincere desire to offer each and every emergency services personnel a sense of comfort in knowing that if something were to happen, their families will be cared for by Cleveland 100 and this community.
“We are here for the Maples family for whatever you may need.
“In the coming weeks, we will gather at the Emergency Services Memorial Wall at Five Points and we will add the name of Officer Justin Maples to our black granite wall that memorializes the names of our fallen heroes through the years.
“I have observed Officer Maples as he served proudly in his uniform as a member of the Cleveland Police Department Honor Guard. He was always looking for any way he could to enhance his education. He attended the Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy at Cleveland State Community College and was attending Bethel University to better prepare him to provide for his family. Justin was president of the Fraternal Order of Police Scenic Lodge 8, of which I am a member. He was a member of the Honor Guard, SWAT team and held a 5th Degree black belt in Ju Jitsu. He had just been accepted into the Air National Guard so he could serve his nation as well as his community. He had not yet signed his enlistment papers.
“Justin came from a lineage of police officers, including Roy Kirksey and Carroll Maples, both former members of the Cleveland Police Department. His brother-in-law, Officer Nathan King, is presently a member of the department.
“Now, I say to the many law enforcement officers here today, including Homeland Security Director David Purkey — give thought to the service of Officer Justin D. Maples. Every day when he went to work he raised the bar in his example and excellence of performance.
“To the bad guys out there, I have this message. Officer Maples may not be on the streets any longer, but those comrades who worked alongside Justin will continue to do what Justin did best. They are carrying on his legacy and they are going to get you. So, don’t mess with the best.
“Officer Justin Maples … thank you for your service. To the family, thank you for letting our community have him for a while.
“On behalf of a grateful city of Cleveland, I offer our sincere condolences and our assurance to give you support and keep you in our hearts as you face each new day.
“I ask God’s blessings and comfort for the family and to all of you who protect and serve.
“Even in tragedy, God is good.
“Jesus says, ‘There is no greater love than a man who lays down his life for his friends.’
“God has a special place for those who protect the innocent and those who are the least among us.
“I will close with this lasting memorial in the words of a true friend of emergency services, the Rev. Bill Griffith, a former chaplain for emergency services.
“Bill sums it up like this: ‘In serving, Justin gave. In giving, Justin died. In dying, Justin received. In receiving, Justin now has the crown of life.’
“Officer Justin Maples will always live in our hearts, minds and our community’s roll of Cleveland’s greatest heroes.”
A tearful Snyder addressed Maples’ parents and wife.
“No family thinks about having to bury a child,” Snyder said.
He reflected on burying his son 19 years ago.
“We have questions. Why? I pray God will give each of you a touch of peace, comfort and hope. As chief, it’s hard to bury one of my team. A person doesn’t become a hero by dying, but by the way they lived,” he said. “Justin began his Sunday by taking his family to church.”
Snyder continued, “The definition of a servant includes someone who ministers through service. Justin was a servant policeman which is a ministry. He faithfully served his family and fellow officers and his community. Justin began and ended his day doing what he wanted to do.”
Snyder then addressed the three children — Declan, Jacobi and Jace.
“Remember when you fell asleep on the couch, but when you woke up, you were in your room, safe and rested. Daddy fell asleep and he is in a special room and is safe,” Snyder said.
He added, “We all want to live our life to the fullest. While we are mourning today, Justin is praising God in worship.”
The police chief stressed, “It was an honor to work and serve with your son and husband and father. May this department never forget his sacrifice. We honor Justin Maples ... Officer Justin Maples.”
Sheriff Jim Ruth presented Danielle with a Purple Heart posthumously to the fallen officer. He read the proclamation indicating Justin had died in the line of duty, responding to the aid of his deputies.
Rev. Terry Harris, the Maples’ family pastor from The Cross Church in Chattanooga, offered words of comfort prior to the end of the service at First Baptist.
“The comments previously made of Justin as a husband, father, son, friend, fellow policeman ... I want to talk to you about when I came to know him. About three years ago, he and his family came to a worship service. He sent an e-mail later explaining he had come to church and met us,” Harris said.
Later, he sent another e-mail.
The pastor said Maples indicated he had, “begun his walk with the Lord again.”
He explained Maples wanted to be a better father, husband and man. Maples remained faithful to the church.
“If he could send me one more e-mail, he would probably want me to communicate to his wife and family how much he loved them,” Harris said. “I think he would want me to say to his fellow law enforcement, ‘Pastor, tell them please be sure they get ready for this. You put your life on the line every day.’”
At the cemetery, a volley of 21 shots echoed across the hillside, “Taps” was played by a member of the Cleveland Police Department Color Guard and “Amazing Grace” was played on the bagpipes by Brad Collins.
Friends of the Justin Maples family have established a fund to assist the fallen Cleveland Police Department officer’s surviving family — his wife, Danielle, and their three small sons, each of whom is under the age of 5.
Those wishing to donate to the fund can visit the bank or mail to: United Community Bank, Attn. Officer Justin Maples Family Benefit Fund, P.O. Box 3150, Cleveland,TN 37320. Money will be directed to the fund.