AVON — The city’s streets are lined in blue, its flags at half-staff for the funeral procession for Cleveland police Officer Vu Nguyen.
Nguyen died Friday after suffering a medical emergency during a police training exercise, according to a news release from Cleveland police.
An Avon resident, his funeral procession will leave Stonebridge development about 9 a.m. today, with local roads blocked to Interstate 90 East so residents can show their support for the family.
Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen had the city’s flags lowered to half-staff through sunrise Friday in Nguyen’s honor.
“I think Cleveland lost a hero, and I think Avon lost part of their family,” Jensen said. “Everybody we talked to, he was just a great person to be around and a great neighbor and a great resident. We’re mourning the loss and he knew a lot of the police officers (here), so even in the city of Avon he was close with everybody. His family was close with everybody, and I think that we saw the outpouring in the neighborhood and I think that we’re going to see an outpouring come (this morning).”
Avon Officer Chris Barton, who lives in Stonebridge as well, helped organize the ribbons going up along the procession’s route and throughout the housing development.
“The last two nights, everyone along the procession route and just neighbors in general have been tying blue ribbons to their trees,” he said. “Everything and then some has a blue ribbon on it.”
Sunday night residents traded their regular porch lights for blue bulbs, and more than 5,000 luminaria bags lined the neighborhood. Originally starting with the nine police officers and their wives who live in Stonebridge, word got out and the support was more than Barton could ever have expected.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before, 400 homes in one development — it’s just amazing,” he said.
Jensen said he drove through the development early that evening and was moved by the support shown in the community.
“It was quite emotional to drive through it,” Jensen said. “I drove through it twice when it was starting to get dark and then there was a gathering of people who kind of just stood outside their house in a show of support. I don’t think there was an area of the neighborhood that wasn’t lit up.”
Barton was friends with Nguyen, describing him as a family man and “just a great, great guy.”
“(Always) with his family, always with his daughters, always had a huge smile on his face,” he said.
Barton said the mayor bought about 400 flags that were given to neighboring children to line the funeral procession this morning. Avon police, including Barton, will lead the procession route from Nguyen’s house through the development and out to state Route 611/Colorado Avenue via Bridgepoint Trail. The motorcade will then take I-90 East to Cleveland for the funeral service. State Route 611 will be closed during the procession.
For Barton, the rallying Avon residents have done following Nguyen’s death is amazing.
“It’s surreal, it reminds us of what we do, at the same time it’s moving,” He said. “It’s chilling knowing that the community supports who we are, what we do and our families. … This neighborhood will never, ever let (Nguyen’s) memory ever go.”