They stood with their right hands stiff against their foreheads, their bodies shoulder-to-shoulder in perfectly straight rows. Their varied uniforms — some red, or grey, or green, some wearing caps and some in gloves — formed a united patchwork of officers in salute.

The visiting law enforcement officers paying tribute to Baton Rouge Officer Matthew Gerald on Friday came from seemingly every one of the United States: Utah, New York, Washington, Colorado, South Carolina, California, Idaho, Oregon, Minnesota, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arizona and Texas, to name a sample.

Some said they drove for 23 hours straight to honor Gerald, and many said they'd stay for the services of his two fellow lawmen on Saturday and Monday. Like Gerald, Baton Rouge Cpl. Montrell Jackson and East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy Brad Garafola were slain by a gunman last Sunday simply because of the badges they wore, officials said.

 

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"There is no other community where if something like this happened, there'd be this show of support," said Deputy Tim Carroll, of the Charleston County Sheriff's office in South Carolina.

Far from making him anxious, Carroll said the news of the killings "solidified the oath I took."

Many of the officers gathered on Friday said volunteering to travel a long distance to stand in solidarity with a slain lawman's family was an easy, almost automatic, choice. It underscored the unspoken bond many officers feel with one another in a profession marked by difficult -- and sometimes fatal -- encounters.

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"It's emotionally overwhelming to know there were three of them," said Det. Aninna Batista, of the Tucson Police Department in Arizona. Standing in the sweltering heat just before Gerald's burial, Batista said she doesn't second-guess her choice of work after the recent officer slayings here and in Dallas, but her family, including a 13-year-old daughter, have many questions for her.