By Gwen Sisson
For the WPT
Sunday was a somber day, as law enforcement officers from around the state and areas in the Southeast joined Webster County in mourning the death of Officer Keith Crenshaw.
Members of the Patriot Guard led a “Freedom Ride” to Eupora to stand outside of First Baptist Church of Eupora as a sign of respect for Eupora’s first police officer to die in the line of duty.
Crenshaw died Oct. 23 trying to stop attempted bank robbery suspects in a high-speed chase on U.S. 82 in Eupora.
“It is one of those days none of us is prepared for, none of us anticipate, but we all know is a possibility … particularly for those in law enforcement who put their lives on the line everyday,” said the Rev. Travis Gray of FBC Eupora. “In our own strength, we cannot prepare for a day like today. Only Jesus can give us the strength we need to be prepared.”
After the family was seated, law enforcement officers from throughout the state and Southeast paid their respects to the family, by walking down to the front to hug or shake hands with family members. Numerous officers walked the aisle, then took their place outside the front doors of FBC Eupora, standing at attention in the misting rain throughout the service.
Jo Faulkenbery sang “Sheltered in the Arms of God” as the service began at 2 p.m. Sunday, to a standing-room only crowd, with many standing in the vestibule. Law enforcement officers and Patriot Guard members stood outside, along with community members who were unable to find a seat but wanted to show their respect for the fallen officer.
Gray shared a poem Crenshaw kept in his police car titled, “When Tomorrow Starts Without Me,” by Elizabeth Doris Fries.
“Keith is going to be missed by all of us in many ways,” said Gray.
He went on recount what family, friends and local business owners had said about Crenshaw throughout the week — “he was my rock,” “I counted on him for everything” and “he always drove by to make sure we made it safely to our cars when we were closing up.”
In his own experience, Gray recounted a time or two when an interesting character stopped by the church, and Keith was quick to check to make sure everything was OK. And recently when out-of-town visitors wanted Gray to show them the newly renovated sanctuary and the hour was late, Crenshaw was watching and making sure everything was OK with this late-night visit.
“He was always at the right place at the right time,” Gray said. “He loved what he did and wanted to make Eupora safer for all of us. … He valued the life of people and we need to treasure what Keith was trying to do for all of us. … Keith loved this community.”
Faulkenbery sang “How Great Thou Art” and Gray reminded the community that despite the shock and uncertainty, God is still in control.
“As we celebrate the life of Officer Keith Crenshaw, we are reminded that our knowledge is so very limited,” he said. “We are reminded that there is still one who is in control of all things, even things we don’t understand. He is still God.”
Gray shared the story of Job from the Old Testament, who had so much taken away so quickly.
“Job’s response was to trust God,” Gray said. “Job said, ‘I am not going to turn my back on God. His deliverance is perfect.’”
Gray said our challenge is to be ready and trust God to give us strength.
As the music of Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on That Mountain” played, family and friends enjoyed a video of personal photos.
After a prayer, Eupora Police Chief Gregg Hunter and other law enforcement officers served as pallbearers, taking the casket out of the church as law enforcement officials and Patriot Guard members stood at attention and saluted.
The procession had more than 30 law enforcement vehicles and Patriot Guard members on motorcycles following the family more than 20 miles to New Haven Cemetery in Choctaw County. All along the route, law enforcement officials and local residents were parked along the side of the road, standing and saluting as the procession went by.
Family and friends said they were deeply impacted by the outpouring of support. Crenshaw, 52, leaves behind six children and five grandchildren; his father, Larry Crenshaw; and his sister, Valerie Palmer.
During this time of loss and to provide Eupora police officers an opportunity to attend the funeral services, Webster County sheriff’s deputies and Starkville police officers were on hand to handle regular office and patrol duties.
“Eupora will be forever grateful to all our neighbors for all their help during this time of grief and healing,” said Eupora Mayor Dan Burchfield. “Special thanks are owed to Sheriff Tim Mitchell and his deputies and the city of Starkville Police Department for covering our patrols for our officers. This has been a classic example of helping neighbors in need. We will not forget this kindness.”