A written tribute from the wife of Baton Rouge Police Officer Matthew Gerald was handed out Friday before his funeral, saying his memory "will continue to bridge the gap and foster peace in the country he lived, loved and died for."

Dechia Gerald, now a widow of two young girls, called him "my blue-eyed rock" and said "the only thing stronger than his love for the red, white and blue was his love for us."

Among the hundreds of mourners were Sheriff's Capt. Tom Cox from Knox County, Tennessee, who said he also traveled to Dallas to attend all the funerals of the five officers killed by a sniper there.

"It's numbing, with this many in such a short period of time" Cox said. "We hope this isn't some trend."

Gerald was one of three officers killed by a lone gunman in Baton Rouge. Funerals for sheriff's deputy Brad Garafola and police officer Montrell Jackson are set for Saturday and Monday.

Gerald joined the Baton Rouge Police Department less than a year ago, an enthusiastic rookie at age 41, after serving four years in the Marines and seven years in the Army, including three tours in Iraq.

He died at the hands of another military veteran, a black man whose rambling internet videos urged violent responses to what he considered oppression. After firing the fatal shots and wounding three other officers, Gavin Long was killed with a long-distance shot by a SWAT team officer.

Police leaders said Long's ambush was at odds with how little violence there had been in Baton Rouge despite days of heightened racial tension following the police shooting of a black man, Alton Sterling, whose death was recorded and posted online.

The two officers involved in Sterling's death have been put on administrative leave and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating.


Associated Press writer Bill Fuller in New Orleans contributed to this report.