Law enforcement personnel from dozens of area agencies, hundreds of onlookers and family members gathered along the streets of Newberg Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 2, to pay last respects to an officer struck down not by a felon's bullet, but by a virus.
Sgt. Brian Gaunt, a veteran of the Beaverton Police Department and a Newberg resident, succumbed to complications related to COVID-19 on Sunday. He was 48.
Gaunt served as a patrol officer, detective, school resource officer and K9 handler during his 21-year term of service in Beaverton. He was promoted to sergeant in 2019 and was assigned to the department's community services division.
A private funeral service was held at Southwest Bible Church in Beaverton on Tuesday. Afterward, friends, family and law enforcement personnel formed a procession that snaked more than 14 miles via rain-soaked highways and roads to Newberg.
The procession was led by a stretch limousine that contained family members and passed beneath a large American flag hung from a ladder truck staged at the corner of Highway 99W and Villa Road by the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue District.
The procession was followed by police cruisers and motorcycles, fire apparatus and others, while many held their hands over their hearts as it passed. Included was the entire George Fox University football team. The Bruins were led by head coach Chris Casey, who has family members that are either current or retired members of the law enforcement community.
"We really deserve no recognition for honoring Sgt. Gaunt as we were simply doing what was right and what we should do," Casey said, adding that former GFU football player Lenana Meekisho, now an officer in Beaverton, contacted him about possibly assembling the team to honor Gaunt. "He is the one who deserves credit for setting this up."
A Coos Bay native, Gaunt graduated from West Linn High School in 1992 and served in the U.S. Coast Guard before becoming a police officer.
While Newberg-Dundee Police Department Chief Jeff Kosmicki did not work with Gaunt, he was familiar with him through coaching youth sports in town."I remember him as a very caring father and husband," Kosmicki said. "We knew a lot of the same people through coaching. Every time someone brought up his name it was followed by how great of a person he was."
Kosmicki added that it was only fitting the Gaunt be recognized with a large gathering at the procession.
"Law enforcement officers pledge to serve the public every day of their career, sometimes in very dangerous circumstances," he said. "When an officer passes away, their procession should reflect honor and respect for their service. It is just as important to show the family that fellow officers thank them for their sacrifice as well. I'm not surprised at all by the turnout."
Gaunt is survived by his wife Holly; children Jake, Avery and Grace; parents John and Patsy and brothers Scott Trece and Stuart Gaunt.
A fund for medical expenses for retired police dogs has been established in his honor. To donate in his name, visit mark-9.org.
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