Lakewood, Wash., police Sgt. Mark Renninger didn’t serve in the Lehigh Valley, but local police plan to pay tribute to him today as if he were every bit one of their own.
Bethlehem police and many others spent days planning the massive funeral for Renninger, a Bethlehem native and graduate of Liberty High School, slated for this morning at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena.
“This could really be something,” Bethlehem Lt. Bob Mitchell said.
Renninger was killed Nov. 29 along with three other Lakewood officers in a coffee shop near Tacoma, Wash. Police believe the officers were targeted by an unstable ex-con, Maurice Clemmons, as they prepared for their upcoming shift.
Clemmons was shot and killed two days later by a Seattle police officer.
The funeral for the four Lakewood officers Wednesday in Tacoma drew 20,000 people. Bethlehem police don’t expect that large of a crowd, but more than 1,000 police officers are expected to pay tribute and join a long procession of cars, motorcycles and horses.
Mitchell said 15 bagpipe and drum corps are coming, including one from the New York Police Department. Mourners will travel from as far away as Lakewood.
Mitchell said an officer from Colorado Springs, Colo., expressed interest and he wouldn’t be shocked to see representatives from departments up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
“You might even find an officer from Canada,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Renninger’s body arrived in the city Wednesday night after being flown into Philadelphia International Airport.
The funeral is slated to start at 11:30 a.m. Mitchell said the procession afterward, where officers file past Renninger’s casket, might take an hour or two, delaying the start to the motorcade that will ferry Renninger through the city.
City schools are closing early to accommodate the procession.
The route police plan to take is Mountain Drive north to Hayes Street, then east on Daly Avenue, across the Minsi Trail Bridge, west on East Broad Street, and north on Linden Street to Liberty High School.
Police plan to load Renninger’s casket onto a horse-drawn caisson at Liberty and proceed to Holy Saviour Cemetery. The caisson will be followed by a riderless horse from Bethlehem’s mounted unit.
Mitchell said interested residents and anyone from neighboring communities should congregate along East Broad and Linden streets to view the procession and pay their respects.
By JD Malone