BARDSTOWN, Ky (WHAS11) -- Roughly 1,000 police officers from across several states flooded into Bardstown, Kentucky on Thursday for the funeral of Officer Jason Ellis, 33, gunned down on Saturday in what police believe was a targeted attack.
"You know, the thin blue line to most is simply a symbol," said Chief Rick McCubbin of the Bardstown Police Department. "The thin blue line to a police officer is a family crest."
Photos: Slain Bardstown Officer Jason Ellis' funeral and procession
The fraternity of those who wear a badge shares a common thread with the saddened community Ellis was sworn to protect and with Ellis' grieving family and friends -- all searching for answers.
A funeral procession that included about 800 emergency vehicles was greeted by hundreds of citizens and thousands of U.S. flags along the route from Parkway Baptist Church to a cemetery in Chaplain, Kentucky.
Seven years ago to the day, Ellis was sworn in as a Bardstown police officer. At Parkway Baptist Church, his wife, two young sons and extended family were embraced by the extended police family.
"Jason, I know you're here," McCubbin said. "I know you're with us."
McCubbin addressed Ellis as one of his officers present, but his message -- after what police believe was a targeted assassination -- was also clearly intended for a much broader audience.
"I am your chief, Jason, but you are now our hero," McCubbin said. "And you must know that your chief will not stand down. Nor will this group of law enforcement officers right here or probably the hundreds of thousands of officers across this country, that his death has rattled their cage as well."
The death of Jason Ellis has not only touched Bardstown's heart, it has touched a nerve.
"Gunned down in a senseless act of cowardice...you just want to cry out, Why?" said Brent Snook, Ellis' childhood pastor.
"A hero makes the deliberate choice to lay down his life in service long before he ever be called upon to lay down his life in sacrifice," Snook said.
"He lived a hero's life and he died a hero's death," Snook said, reading from a letter by Jamie Smith, Ellis' close friend who is a missionary in Africa.
McCubbin told mourners that Ellis was a fun-loving jokester who dressed as an elf at a town Christmas party, and he was proud of his work taking drugs off the streets with his K-9 partner.
Ellis was shot to death early Saturday morning on his way home from work. Police say he got out of his cruiser to remove debris from the roadway when he was killed. An investigation is ongoing and there's a $100,000 reward for information.
Ellis is not only being remembered as an officer who gave his life but as a father, husband, son and friend who consistently sacrificed his own interests for others.
A minor league baseball player, Ellis hung up his cleats and moved to Kentucky when his wife encountered a difficult pregnancy, said Brandon Young, his brother in law.
"Not only was Jason a family man worth praising and a friend worth having, but Jason was a follower of a call worth answering," Young told the mourners.
"Jason has now become a fallen hero worth honoring," Young continued, saying Ellis provided a Christ-like example to lay down his life for others.
"Early this past Saturday morning, a beloved husband, father, son, brother and friend exhibited this great love," Young said. "Jason gave his life for his country, for his community, for his family, for all of us. Jason Ellis was a warrior. He was greatly loved. he will be greatly missed. May we make it part of our own life's mission to ensure that he is never forgotten, that he is forever honored."