Community activist Rus Thompson is urging hundreds of people holding American flags to line Delaware Avenue Wednesday morning to pay tribute to Buffalo police Officer Craig E. Lehner as the hearst carrying Lehner's casket passes enroute to Forest Lawn.
The funeral procession route from KeyBank Center downtown to the cemetery – where Lehner will be laid to rest – includes a 2.7-mile stretch of Delaware beginning at Niagara Square.
People who wish to be part of the patriotic farewell are being asked to park on side streets and assemble along Delaware by 11:15 a.m., said Thompson, who announced the effort Monday in a Facebook post.
Thompson, a Grand Island resident and Army veteran, said he got the idea after watching news coverage of the hometown receptions given for fallen war veterans around the country.
"When they come home, everyone in town lines the streets holding American flags," Thompson said. "We haven't had many war dead return to the Buffalo area, so we've been lucky. But Officer Lehner was a war veteran, a police K-9 officer and an emergency diver. That shows he had a real dedication to protect the people of Western New York."
Buffalo police Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards endorsed the grassroots idea.
"People want to show their support and patriotism for the Lehner family and first responders," Richards said. "Certainly the effort has the blessing of the police department. It is a nice and welcome gesture."
Those planning to line the procession route may want to bring a rain slicker and dress in layers. The forecast calls increasing wind and rain with a high of 50 degrees.
"Lining Delaware Avenue will give people an opportunity to show their support and gratitude,"said Thompson.
Lehner's funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at KeyBank Center and is expected to draw thousands of law enforcement officers and the public. Police are arranging for buses to shuttle mourners from the arena to Forest Lawn and back.