Summerton Baptist Church was filled to capacity Tuesday as the family and friends of a slain Montana sheriff's deputy said their final goodbyes.
Mason Palmer Bethea Moore, 42, a Summerton native, was shot and killed in the early morning hours of May 16 after stopping two suspects in Three Forks, Montana. One suspect, Marshall Barrus, was later severely injured in a shootout, and died the following day. The other suspect, Lloyd Barrus, was charged with one count of murder and 14 counts of attempted murder. He remains in custody after being granted a $2 million bond in Montana.
"Evil thoughts may have won in the early hours of May 16, but Mason has the victory," said Jodi Moore, his wife. "He has seen his Creator face-to-face and will spend eternity in Heaven, and I will be counting down the hours, days and seconds until I get to see him again."
Jodi said Tuesday during services held at Summerton Baptist Church - and broadcast to Clarendon Hall and the Summerton Cultural Arts Center - that her husband would have bristled at being called a "hero."
Signs with the moniker lined the streets May 25 as the deputy's body was brought to Manning from Charleston after being flown from Montana.
"I know the word hero probably makes his fellow law enforcement officers and firefighters squirm in your seat, as it would have made Mason," said Jodi Moore. "You would probably say you were just doing your jobs. But this world has shown me in the last few days that you are heroes. You are appreciated. You are loved, and we care about you and consider you all heroes."
Jodi said her husband wanted to leave his mark on the world, but not because he craved fame.
"He wanted to make a difference," she said. "He didn't want it so his name would be heard on everyone's lips, but because he loved and cared. He loved and cared for his family, for his fellow law enforcement officers and his fellow firefighters. Mason was so proud to stand next to you and fight the battle."
Former Clarendon County Sheriff's Office Inv. Lin Ham, who worked with and mentored Moore during the latter's time at that agency, said he was proud to call the slain deputy a friend.
"This is something that no one should ever have to go through," said Ham. "No family should have to make this ultimate sacrifice."
Former Sheriff Randy Garrett wrote a letter to the family that was read during Tuesday's ceremony.
"It breaks my heart to know that his time was cut short," said Garrett. "I know he gave his life doing a job he believed in."
Garrett said that he'd had several conversations about Moore since the deputy's passing, particularly over Memorial Day weekend as he was reunited with many of his former officers and colleagues on his own birthday.
"Every single person commented on his character," said Garrett. "He was always so positive. He treated everyone with dignity and respect. He never had a bad thing to say about anyone. It's hard not to let years of working in law enforcement make you cynical. This wasn't an issue for Mason."
Garrett said that Moore was more than just a law enforcement officer and a firefighter.
"He wasn't just one of us; he was the best of us," said Garrett. "At the end of life, material things don't matter. What really matters is your character and how you treated people. Follow Mason's example: Live a life that matters. Live a life of love. Love always wins."
Former Sheriff's Office Capt. Sean Briley said Moore was never prouder than when he was talking about his family.
"Nebraska, I can't remember a day that he didn't talk about you," said Briley directly to Moore's older brother, who is also a law enforcement officer. Ham said that part of Moore's decision to go into law enforcement was directly because of his brother.
"He loved his children and his wife," Briley said. "He was the ultimate family man."
Briley said that Moore had a lot of titles.
"He was a friend, father, husband, son, brother and deputy, but his most important one was follower of Jesus," Briley said. "I can promise everyone of you here today, that if you believe in Jesus, you will see my brother in Heaven again."