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Mayor, Metro Police Honor Officer Nick Rodman

Officer Rodman Memorial_9

His name will be the 99th etched into the stone beneath the eternal flame at Jefferson Square Park.

The flame burns to honor the city's police officers who've died in the line of duty. It burns in the wind, it burns in the night.

On Thursday, the flame burned in the rain that fell as hundreds of officers gathered at the park in downtown Louisville to honor Officer Nick Rodman.

He died Wednesday at University Hospital from injuries sustained after his police cruiser was struck head-on by a vehicle driven by a fleeing suspect. Rodman was offering assistance in a pursuit that sped through Portland, said Louisville Metro Police chief Steve Conrad.

Rodman, 30, is the second Louisville Metro Police officer to die in the line of duty since the department was formed after the old city of Louisville merged with Jefferson County.

Conrad offered his condolences Thursday as scores of people gathered around the eternal flame for a memorial to Rodman.

"He will never be forgotten," Conrad said. "He made the ultimate sacrifice doing what he believed in and what he loved."

Rodman was a third-year veteran of the Louisville Metro Police Department. He was assigned to the department's First Division, which stretches west from Frankfort Avenue along the Ohio River to 35th Street and south to Broadway.

His father and brother are also Louisville Metro Police officers. He had two young children and a wife.

After the prepared remarks from Conrad and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Lt. Aubrey Gregory gave the command.

The bells rang from atop City Hall and the American flag that flies above the eternal flame was lowered to half mast.

Gregory heads the department's honor guard. They wore white gloves and full brimmed hats and moved with robotic precision.

The 19-member honor guard practices hours each month for solemn events such as the memorial of an officer killed in the line of duty. The guard also attends funerals for former police officers and joins other honor guard groups across the state when officers are killed while working.

But it's a different level of intensity when they're called to honor a fellow officer.

"It always hits you like a ton of bricks," Gregory said.

Still, they showed little emotion Thursday as mourners gathered around them and watched their rehearsed performance.

Though stolid, Gregory said they all could feel the pain that comes with losing a colleague and a friend.

"We just have to be able to hold that back and deal with it later," he said. "It's not easy, it's not."

A pair of fire trucks hoisted a large American flag above the park.

Below, the crowd of officers parted as Rodman's family walked slowly by. His mother and father held each other tightly. His mother, Linda, pressed her head against the shoulder of her husband, George.

Members of the department's First Division joined arms at the base of the flag and sunk their heads.

They watched the flame and stared at the names. They held onto each other and they wept.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.