RIVERSIDE - Thousands of mourners turned out on a sunny and warm Wednesday for the funeral of slain Riverside police Officer Michael Crain, who was celebrated as a mentor and Marine veteran who put his family above all else.
Uniformed law enforcement officers from throughout California joined family and friends who filed into Grove Community Church in Riverside behind bagpipe players and officers carrying Crain's flag-draped casket.
A rock `n' roll soundtrack that featured songs by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd punctuated the service for Crain, 34.
Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz struggled with tears as he spoke directly to Crain's children - Ian, 10, and Kaitlyn, 4. He described their father as a soft-spoken man who was deeply admired.
"Your dad was a tough guy," Diaz said. "And because he was tough, he knew he could be kind, and gentle."
Crain was a training officer with the Riverside Police Department.
He was in a patrol car with a rookie officer early Feb. 7 when ex-LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner allegedly opened fire from another vehicle.
The rookie officer was wounded in the attack.
Crain is the second Riverside officer killed in the line of duty in three years. Officer Ryan Bonaminio was shot twice Nov. 7, 2010 after stopping a suspect in a hit-and-run crash.
Crain's former training officer, Steve Pounds, said as a young officer, Crain was fascinated with everything related to law enforcement and that his behavior "screamed Marine."
"Every time he answered one of my questions, he would throw in a `sir' at the end," Pounds said.
Jason Crain challenged Riverside police officers to adapt some of his brother's traits.
He said it was important to be willing to make sacrifices with honor and courage when an act of valor is necessary.
Crain mainly was described as a man whose family came first.
"Mike was proud to serve his country. He loved being a policeman. He enjoyed the company of his friends, but he lived for his family," Diaz said. "He was, above all else, a family man."
His wife, Regina Crain, said her marriage to the officer "seemed like a dream."
"I know there's a lot of people that have wonderful relationships. I felt mine was perfect. And I just kept waiting for the other shoe to drop," she said.
A day of heartache and anguish was tempered with the compassion of a city too-well acquainted with the sorrow that surrounds fallen police officers.
Bonaminio was on the minds of many who attended the funeral or stood on sidewalks and watched the long procession of patrol cars that coasted into the church parking lot.
Ray Dillick, 31, showed a tattoo on his calf in honor of Bonaminio as he gathered with neighbors across the street from the church.
"That was my best friend," he said, recalling the community's support for the Bonaminio family. "They did it for us. Why can't we do it for (Crain)?"
Indeed, the community poured its heart out for the Crain family.
Greg Knoth, a 60-year-old Navy and Marine Corps veteran, was among the first of those who gathered on street corners in the morning to pay tribute to Crain.
He choked back tears while holding an American flag and speaking of the slain officer.
"To see an officer fall like that, this kinda stuff should never happen," Knoth said. "People out there protecting our lives. It's the least I could do."
By the time Crain's casket was taken to Riverside National Cemetery, hundreds lined Van Buren Boulevard, also known as Veterans Memorial Highway.
Among them was Hank Moore, a Riverside man who sat in the bed of his white pickup truck, next to an American flag raised high.
"When you lose a person who puts his life on the line every day for you, you want to show respect," Moore said.
A long line of patrol cars and officers on motorcycles flashed their lights as they crawled through Riverside ahead of a hearse in a procession from Grove Community Church to Riverside National Cemetery.
The public ceremony for Crain at the cemetery saw a sea of uniformed officers surround his mourning family.
A police helicopter descended into the cemetery and hovered between a couple of trees atop a grassy knoll above the cemetery lake.
Those in attendance stood at attention as Crain's flag-draped casket was wheeled into the amphitheater. Only the whir of a distant helicopter could be heard.
A Marine Corps Rifle Detail fired a salute, followed by the playing of taps.
After a sermon by Riverside Police Department Chaplain Steve Ballinger, Diaz presented a folded flag to Regina Crain.
A flag was also presented to Crain's mother, Cindy Crain.
A black horse, sans rider and with boots placed in reverse position in the stirrups, was led into the amphitheater, representing the "passing of the great officer," Ballinger said.
"It honors all our officers who died in the line of duty," Ballinger said.
Clutching the folded American flag presented to her by Diaz, Regina Crain said the service was "beautiful" and extended a "thank you" to those in the law enforcement community she also considers family.
Michael Crain's casket was then loaded into a hearse, which transported his body to another area of the cemetery for a private burial.
"We take people in with the knowledge that they can get killed doing the job, and there's only a few things we can promise them," Diaz said following the service. "If they get killed doing this job, we'll do the best we can to catch their killer, we're going to give them the appropriate send off, and we're going to take care of their families, and we try to live up to that."
Crain's burial occurred the day after Dorner, his suspected killer, presumably perished in a cabin fire in the San Bernardino Mountains after shootout with authorities. That gunbattle left San Bernardino County sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah MacKay dead and another deputy severely wounded.
The injured deputy was identified as Alex Collins. He is being treated at Loma Linda University Medical Center.
"It's much better to be able to do this with some closure ... without (Dorner) being loose," Diaz said. "That was one of our big fears, so yeah, it is a sense of relief."
Those who spoke Wednesday about Crain's death didn't mention Dorner at all. Instead they spoke of Crain's legacy.
He was an 11-year veteran of the Riverside Police Department and a 1996 graduate of Redlands High School. Crain attended Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa for a year before enlisting in the Marine Corps.
He served two tours in Kuwait as a rifleman in the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. Cain was a squad leader and was promoted to sergeant.
Crain earned the Good Conduct Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one star, a Certificate of Commendation and the Rifle Marksmanship Badge.
He enjoyed spending time with his wife, as well as coaching his son's baseball team and watching his daughter's dance recitals.