It started off as a sunny day in Eastman on Thursday as several hundreds gathered in the gymnasium at Dodge County High School.

Police officers from around the country and well wishers from throughout the state.

They were there to say goodbye to a fallen lawman.

Eastman police Officer Tim Smith answered his final call Saturday night on Main Street. Concerned residents phoned in a suspicious man with a gun and Smith did what he wanted to do since he was a little boy - serve and protect.

The five-year veteran of the force was shot and killed. He was two days shy of his 31st birthday.

That boy knew his hours were limited in the back of that ambulance. The thing he kept telling the EMS workers - 'Tell Chelsea I love her ... make sure you tell Chelsea I love her,” Rogers said during his eulogy

The Dodge County High School gymnasium was filled to capacity. There were so many people that an overflow room was opened for those who wanted to say their final good-bye's, but couldn't fit in the gym.

Georgia State Patrol troopers carry Smith's casket into Dodge County High (photo by Suzanne Lawler)
Georgia State Patrol troopers carry Smith's casket into Dodge County High (photo by Suzanne Lawler)

Smith's cousin, Chris Rogers, was one of the speakers at the funeral. “That boy knew his hours were limited in the back of that ambulance," he said. "The thing he kept telling the EMS workers - 'Tell Chelsea I love her ... make sure you tell Chelsea I love her,”

He said Smith wanted to make sure his fiancée Chelsea Clark knew she was the last person on his mind. “Every conversation we ever had, he always told me about how beautiful you were to him,” said Rogers.

Smith and Clark had a 5-month-old daughter and two son.

Rogers said it wasn't easy seeing his cousin's two sons Wednesday. “I wanna say Lander and Landon, Daddy loved you boys like no other. He always wanted the best for you and he talked about you all the time. He always looked forward to the fishing trips at Mr. Jason's house and the time he would spend with you boys. Daddy was proud of both of you,” said Rogers.

Smith's love for helping people carried over into his career, something Rogers says runs in the family. “He followed in my granddaddy’s footsteps and my daddy's footsteps and I honestly don’t think he would have it any other way,” said Rogers.

Pastor Dahl McDermitt of Gresston Baptist Church in Eastman also spoke at Thursday service. “There are too few people out there that are willing to risk the job, the lifestyle and even the humiliation ... from serving up front," McDermitt said. "It is an honorable job.” said McDermitt.

“I think if Tim were here looking around, he would kinda just fall back over there in the corner somewhere at the out pouring that we have here ... he would just give us that little smirk he gives ... he would say I cannot believe y'all did this,” said Rogers.

Just as the service concluded and well wishers exited the high school, the sky grew cloudy. Pallbearers carried Smith's casket to an awaiting caisson, which brought him to the hearse.

The funeral procession to Greenlawn Memorial Park - about 5 miles long - proceeded to the cemetery. By the time they arrived, the clouds opened up and rain poured over Eastman.