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Thousands of people gathered at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Boone on Tuesday for the funeral of slain Watauga County Deputy William Mast, jr.
Mast was gunned down when he went to investigate an open 911 call in the Deep Gap community. The man who authorities say shot Mast was gunned down himself by a second deputy who was with Mast at the time.
The service in Boone Tuesday was attended by law enforcement personnel who came from as far away as New York City.
"When a law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty we take it hard," said former Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman. Huffman said officers put their lives on the one every day and know that every time they leave home they might not be coming back.
Mast's body was taken to the church on a horse drawn caisson. The tradition dates back to the Civil War when heroes who were killed were taken from the battleield on the caissons that also carrried ammunition and cannon. The North Carolina State Trooper's Association has a special team that was trained at Arlington National Cemetery that travels to funerals across the state and the southeast.
The deputy's father walked behind the caisson the entire way to the church. Mast's pregnant wife was going to ride in a vehicle to the church but decided to walk the last few hundred yards as well. Thousands stood in silence as they passed. Those in uniform saluted, others held a hand to their chest.
The service itself lasted almost two hours with eulogies from people who knew him and words from the deputy's pastor.
When the service ended, Mast's body was placed in a hearse and with more than two hundred patrol cars went in procession through Boone enroute to the family's cemetery north of town.
People lined the streets to pay their respects as the hearse and officers drove by. On Highway 105 two fire trucks hoisted a giant American Flag for the procession to pass under. People stood in silence. Many said they prayed for the family as the hearse passed by.
"This community is grieving" said one woman. "This will help the healing process."
One more funeral remains from the events of July 26th, the day the incident happened. Mitchell Trivette, the accused shooter, will be buried Wednesday.