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'The only thing that comes easy today are tears'

By Archie Ingersoll Forum News Service FARGO - For the first time in more than 130 years, the city of Fargo bid a final goodbye Monday to a police officer shot down in the line of duty. The funeral of Officer Jason Moszer drew an estimated 3,600 ...

By Archie Ingersoll

Forum News Service

FARGO - For the first time in more than 130 years, the city of Fargo bid a final goodbye Monday to a police officer shot down in the line of duty.

The funeral of Officer Jason Moszer drew an estimated 3,600 people to Scheels Arena, including 2,800 law enforcement officers, some from as far away as Texas and Indiana.

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"We have a hole in our hearts that we don't know how to fill," Fargo Police Chief David Todd told the crowd filled with row upon row of brown and blue uniforms glinting with gold badges.

Before the service, funeral-goers paid their respects to Moszer as he lay in repose in the arena's lobby. Framed photos of his family were tucked next to him in his flag-draped casket. Parked nearby was his Victory motorcycle, adorned with his black leather riding vest.

The sorrowful wail of bagpipes, anchored by the tap and thump of drums, opened the service officiated by the Rev. Kevin Kloster, the former Fargo police chaplain who married Moszer and his wife, Rachel.

Kloster urged mourners to let the tears flow, to let them "form a collective pool at our feet that becomes a monument that honors Jason's life."

"I can tell you from personal experience, the only thing that comes easy today are tears," Kloster said. "They release the ache. They release the hurt. They release the emptiness. They release the anger that is within us."

Friends of Moszer eulogized the 33-year-old as a husband and stepdad dedicated to his family and to a life of service, a straight shooter with a sarcastic streak.

"If you were expecting Jason to sugarcoat anything, you were talking to the wrong guy," said Drew Schwan, Moszer's friend since grade school. "He's also the first person to put his game face on when it came to helping someone in need."

Schwan said Moszer would have been uncomfortable with all the attention given to his death. Instead, he would have probably preferred that everyone just go out for a beer, his friend said.

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Todd described Moszer as a "quiet hero" and a "cop's cop," connecting his service as an Army combat medic in Iraq and Bosnia with his sacrifice as a police officer and, posthumously, as an organ donor. The chief thanked law enforcement officers and others for coming to honor the fallen lawman whose call sign, Edward 143, has been retired by the department.

"If Jason could say it, he'd say thanks for the backup," Todd said.

Moszer, a Fargo officer for six years, was shot Feb. 10 while responding to a report of domestic violence at a north Fargo home. He died the next day--the first line-of-duty death of a Fargo police officer since 1882.

The man suspected of shooting Moszer was found dead inside the home. Police believe the suspected gunman was targeting officers during a shootout.

As it turned out, Officer Jacob Rued, who counted Moszer as a friend and mentor, said goodbye to Moszer the day before he was shot.

In a eulogy, Rued told the crowd that he and Moszer had both been on a night shift together since Rued had joined the force. But Moszer was moving to a day shift. The day before Moszer was shot was the last time they would both work the night shift.

As they parted ways at the end of the night, Moszer joked with his friend: "Well, Rued, I wish I could say it's been fun." But he assured Rued he wasn't going anywhere. He was just moving to the day side.

"I know. But I'm still going to miss you. And I'm still sad," Rued recalled replying.

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Twenty-four hours later, he was holding Moszer's hand at Sanford Medical Center, where his friend was about to die.

"Life is fragile. Appreciate your life, and the life of people you love," Rued said. "It's not free. And it's sure not easy."

The shot that killed Moszer was a senseless act of violence, Kloster said, but he noted it was not his eternal end. "That shot did not end Jason's life. It moved Jason from Earth to heaven," the pastor said.

After the ceremonial rites afforded a military veteran and a police officer, the arena stood silent, except for the sound of weeping, as honor guards presented Rachel Moszer and Moszer's parents, Dave and Karen, with folded flags.

The service ended with what Kloster said was Moszer's sole request for his funeral: the playing of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive."

Following the funeral, a lengthy procession of law enforcement officers and other first responders escorted Moszer along a 21-mile route winding through West Fargo, Moorhead and Fargo, past the armory where his Minnesota National Guard unit was based, the police headquarters where he worked and the hospital where he died.

His burial will be held privately at a later date.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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