Slain Capitol officer is buried at Arlington National Cemetery Thousands line procession route to pay respects to Jacob J. Chestnut

August 01, 1998|By Geoffrey C. Upton | Geoffrey C. Upton,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Officer Jacob J. Chestnut, an 18-year veteran of the Capitol Police, was buried yesterday afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery, one week after he and another officer were slain at the Capitol.

Chestnut, who served in Vietnam during a 20-year Air Force career, was given full military honors as he was laid to rest under a cherry tree, with his family and hundreds of police officers from around the nation looking on. For the second straight day, thousands of mourners took to the streets and highways in and around the District of Columbia to pay their respects to a slain Capitol police officer.

All along Allentown Road in leafy Fort Washington, Md., the suburb southeast of the District where the funeral was held, entire neighborhoods came out to wave at passing police cruisers, hoist American flags or simply watch from lawn chairs on the side of the road. Many saluted or held their caps over their hearts, while others displayed hand-made signs honoring the fallen officer.

In Washington, hundreds of tourists and workers on lunch breaks crowded the streets in front of the Capitol and along the Mall as the miles-long procession made its way across the Potomac River for Chestnut's burial.

Thursday, a similar procession had accompanied the hearse of slain Detective John M. Gibson from suburban Virginia, through the District and to Arlington. Both officers were shot July 24 while on duty in the Capitol.

Yesterday, Capitol staff and police paused for 13 seconds of silence -- the time between the gunman's first and last shots -- at 3: 35 p.m., exactly one week after the fatal shoot-out.

Chestnut's funeral, held at the sprawling Ebenezer AME Church, drew an estimated 3,500 mourners, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other members of Congress, Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh. As at Gibson's funeral, police officers came from across the country.

The service was marked by hugs, applause and rousing hymns. Co-workers, family members and church leaders remembered Chestnut as a kind man who treated everyone he met with respect, who readily gave of himself and who loved his garden.

Chestnut was a selfless servant to others, said Pastor Jack A. Marcom, Jr., of the Fort Washington Baptist Church. "If you disagreed with him, he still loved you," Marcom said. "If you disagreed with him, he'd still hug you. If you disagreed with him, he'd still give you some zucchini squash."

Capitol Police Chief Gary L. Albrecht recalled Chestnut's integrity and approachable nature.

"I have seen J.J. interact with people from all walks of life," Albrecht said. "He treated everyone, no matter who they were, with the same level of dignity and respect.

"It was not the way that he died that made him a hero," he added. "It was the way that he lived."

Members of Chestnut's family gave the most emotional tributes.

"Jake had a way of inspiring people," said Chestnut's younger brother Henry. "He loved to put his hand on your shoulder and talk to you and encourage you."

"They call him a hero here, but he's always been my hero," he said.

Karen Chestnut, one of five children, recalled her father as a "down-home country boy" at heart, a man full of energy and at complete peace. "Before he was this hero of democracy, before a door was named after him, before he was the first African-American to lie in state, before he was mourned all over the world," she said, "he was Daddy."

She began to sob as she thanked family and friends for their support and praised her mother's strength.

Outside, where the service was broadcast on loudspeakers, officers and spectators bowed their heads, and tears streamed down many faces.

"It was very moving," Sgt. Kevin D. McWhirt of the Central Intelligence Agency said afterward. "Everybody was in tears.

"It made me feel very proud to wear a badge, to do what we do."

Pub Date: 8/01/98

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