With limited indoor capacity, tributes take place outside Lt. Michael Boutte’s funeral
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - A crowd of family, friends and loved ones packed the Bay St. Louis Community Hall for the visitation and funeral of Lt. Michael Boutte, the Hancock County Sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed while on duty.
While most of the crowd honored Boutte indoors, tributes also happened outdoors.
People from across the nation came to honor the Mississippi hero.
“He’s made an impact on his community,” Gov. Tate Reeves said. “He’s made an impact on his family. He’s made an impact on the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
The U.S. Honor Flag, an American flag from Ground Zero of the 9/11 attacks, made its way to the funeral.
“When we have an opportunity to honor heroes, we will go out of our way to do that,” said founder/president of U.S. Honor Flag Chris Heisler.
For nearly two decades now, the flag has been to more than 1,000 funerals for American law enforcement officers, first responders, and military servicemen.
“This flag is continuously moving from place to place to honor fallen American heroes,” Heisler said.
About 40 members of Mississippi’s Patriot Guard Riders formed a flag line at the entrance to the visitation and rode in the funeral procession with their motorcycles.
“It’s just an honor to pay respect to those that serve our country whether it be our military or first responders,” said Assistant State Captain Bob Harwood.
Mike Starrett drove his “Blue Lives Matter” semi-truck from his home in Gramercy, La. to honor the fallen Hancock County Sheriff’s deputy.
Starrett has been driving the vehicle to law enforcement funerals since 2019, adding the names of those that have died to the sides of the truck.
“We try to just not let them be forgotten,” he said. “There’s a lot of support out there for officers.”
The tributes meant a lot for the community and the state as a whole.
“We had a huge crowd out here today because of the man that Michael was,” Reeves said. “He was a role model for so many.”
While the honors were for Lt. Boutte and his family, people also wanted their acts of kindness to serve as a way to honor other law enforcement agents who died while on the line of duty.
“We used to hug police officers and firefighters randomly on the street, or soldiers,” Heisler said. “It hasn’t been like that over the last 20 years.”
Visitors hope people know the sacrifice the men and women in blue go through while keeping their communities safe.
“I was a police officer in Louisiana for a little while and I know how hard it can be and rough,” Starrett said. “It’s not about the money that’s for sure. It’s about loving what you do and helping others.”
As family, friends and loved ones mourn their loss, the outpour of love and support will continue to flow.
“It is a tradition for us and it’s something that we love to do, in paying respect,” Harwood said.
Copyright 2021 WLOX. All rights reserved.