During a processional for a fallen Alabama police officer, an unknown man knelt down in the rain, stretched out his hand, and prayed as squad cars drove by.
The powerful moment was captured on camera by Tim Evans, an officer with the Warrior Police Department. He was friends with Nick O’Rear, the Kimberly officer fatally shot during a pursuit Tuedsay night. O’Rear was only 33 years old.
“During the procession for Officer Nick O’Rear, so many people lined the streets in the pouring rain to pay tribute to this hero,” wrote Evans. “But this one man really caught my attention. I don’t know who this man is, but he knelt in the wet grass and prayed, his hand outstretched as each patrol car passed by.”
Evans described the action as “a very touching tribute.”
Following O’Rear’s untimely death, Kimberly Mayor Bob Ellerbrock described the slain officer as “a tremendous asset to our community” and a man whom “everybody loved.”
The mayor went on to describe O’Rear’s murder as “senseless.”
Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said in a statement she was “profoundly grieved” to learn about O’Rear’s death, adding, “His sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
O’Rear was the father of two children with a third on the way.
Four people have since been taken into custody in connection with O’Rear’s death. Only one of the four — 37-year-old Preston Johnson — has been charged. He now faces capital murder charges because the victim was a member of the law enforcement community.
The handcuffs used to arrest Johnson belonged to Walker County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Emberg. On Wednesday, the sergeant asked Sheriff Nick Smith to officially retire those handcuffs in a letter accompanied by a photo of the cuffs with the suspect’s name and O’Rear’s official date of death handwritten on them.
Who is the kneeling man?
Evans didn’t know this, but O’Rear was friends with the man who knelt down in the rain as his processional drove by. That man was Joseph Brewer.
Brewer, a man of deep faith, was grieving the loss of his friend Monday, and his prayers were authentic. More than most, perhaps, Brewer knows the weight of death, according to a tribute penned by WVTM-TV anchor Rick Karle.
He’s read through the Bible — from Genesis to Revelation — at least five times and he’s come near death a handful of times in his own life, too. He credits his faith in God for carrying him through.
As a teenager, Brewer was hit head-on by a drunk driver and suffered serious back injuries as a result of the accident. In that, Karle wrote, Brewer’s “faith pulled him through.” Years later, he found himself in the crossfire as a group of teens shot bullets into his car, one hitting the back of his head. He survived, and, according to Karle, “his faith pulled him through.” Then, as an adult, while repairing a gas line, he was run over by a utility truck. Once again, Karle wrote, Brewer’s “faith pulled him through.”
When he learned his friend, O’Rear, had passed away, Brewer traveled the long distance to be there for his funeral.
“Joseph was overcome with emotion as the hearse passed, and as he knelt in the soggy grass and removed his hat, Joseph Brewer prayed, and then prayed some more,” wrote Karle. “He bowed his head and prayed for what seemed like an eternity as rain pelted his face and the long, sad procession moved along. With mud on his knees and wind whipping through his bones, he prayed for every officer as they sadly drove by.”
Karle’s Facebook post about Brewer has been shared more than 9,000 times.
Please be in prayer for O’Rear’s family, his community, and his friends — like Brewer and Evans — as they grieve such a tragic loss.