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'We've lost a hero': Washington State Patrol Trooper Justin Schaffer honored during memorial service

Trooper Justin Schaffer was killed on March 24 after being hit by a man fleeing law enforcement on I-5.

CENTRALIA, Wash. — Fallen Washington State Patrol Trooper Justin Schaffer was honored at a memorial service Wednesday in Centralia.

Trooper Schaffer, 28, died March 24 after being hit by a driver fleeing law enforcement along Interstate 5 during rush hour.

The memorial service was postponed until now because of restrictions on public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A long-time friend remembered Trooper Schaffer as living life to the fullest without letting anything slow him down. He "achieved great success because of his outlook and drive."

"We've lost a hero," said WSP Chief John Batiste during the service. "He was a trooper’s trooper. Strong, honest, courageous, compassionate, loyal, unassuming, humble, but still proud of the work he did… we forever thank you for that."

A procession for Trooper Schaffer preceded the memorial. 

Trooper Schaffer began working for the Washington State Patrol on Nov. 12, 2013, as a cadet. He continued to train and was commissioned in 2014. In 2016, he was assigned as a certified drug recognition expert. In November of 2018, he completed K9 training and was a certified K9 handler. He transferred to Chehalis in December 2018.

WATCH: Procession for fallen WSP Trooper Justin Schaffer

Trooper Schaffer was the 30th member of the WSP to die in the line of duty in the agency's 99 years of service. 

“In his last moments on the earth, he was wearing the uniform of the Washington State Patrol," Batiste said in a statement. "We must pause and reflect on the character of each of the men and women we have lost over the years. Like Justin, they each served as one of the state’s guardians and each day of their work, they walked into unknown dangers with well-known courage.” He added, “We will never forget him. Never…” 

The man accused of killing Trooper Schaffer was charged with first-degree murder.

Trooper Schaffer is survived by his wife, Sandra, his mother Sheila and father Glenn, his brother Brandon, and his K9 partner Frankie.

RELATED: Fallen WSP trooper honored by memorial caravan

The Schaffer family released the following statement after Justin's memorial service Wednesday: 

The overwhelming outpouring of support in the days that followed Justin’s death by the community where he spent his formative years and served as a Washington State Patrol (WSP) Trooper, shows the true impact of his life.

Over the past four months, our family has been the grateful recipients of countless cards, offerings of food, flowers and mementos. Our hearts burst with pride as we witnessed our community members come together and form their own parade honoring Justin and extending unending support to our family.

Within that community, we would also like to thank the emergency responders who have stayed vigilantly at our side from the very beginning: from rendering aid to Justin and providing initial support to our family, as well as to those who stepped in to relieve Justin’s grieving colleagues in their time of need.

We consider ourselves honored and are grateful to live amongst such selfless, compassionate and kind individuals. Being raised in a law enforcement family, to serve and to sacrifice one’s self for others was engrained into Justin’s character since childhood. He understood the risks as he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a protector of the peace in the community he held dear. 

That understanding lead to Justin living his best life: to the fullest, with a fierce love for his family, a loyal heart for his friends and a constant, infectious smile. 

Nothing could truly prepare our family for the events that changed the course of our lives on March 24, 2020. Now, more than ever, we hold onto the memories that will create his legacy that will be carried on by all of those lucky enough to have known him.

The sorrow and grief our family has endured during the past four months as we waited to honor and celebrate the life our beloved son, dedicated husband, loving brother and loyal friend has been immeasurable. We also know we are not alone during these times, and are truly grateful to now have the opportunity to pay tribute to Justin.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to the Behind the Badge Foundation, WSP, WSP Memorial Foundation, WSP Spouses Association, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Centralia Police Department, Chehalis Police Department and the community for their continued support of our family.