HANOVER — Weymouth police Sergeant Michael C. Chesna achieved his dream to become a police officer in his hometown, a devoted husband and father who served with pride and would sacrifice his own life in defense of the community he had sworn to protect.
On Friday, thousands of police officers from across the region gathered in Hanover for a funeral Mass at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Church to honor the loss of a man who had once written that being a police officer is “the highest order of public servant.”
“Mike, you are my hero,” said Weymouth police Captain Joseph Comperchio, Chesna’s brother-in-law, during the Mass. “And I am truly honored to have known you both personally and professionally. We love you and we will miss you.”
Chesna, 42, died Sunday morning after 20-year-old Emanuel Lopes, allegedly shot Chesna with his own service weapon. Lopes also is accused of fatally wounding Vera Adams, 77, while he was being pursued through a residential neighborhood in Weymouth.
Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office has charged Lopes with murder in both deaths. On Tuesday, he entered a plea of not guilty during his arraignment in Quincy District Court.
Chesna was posthumously promoted to sergeant by Weymouth police this week. He died just one day short of his sixth anniversary of joining the Police Department.
On Friday, throngs of mourners, including family, friends, political leaders, and thousands of police officers, gathered at the church.
“It’s just tragic and it shouldn’t have happened,” said Rockland police Sergeant Rodney Welch, who stood across the street from the church with his fellow police officers before the funeral. “But we all come together for one of our own.”
Before the funeral Mass began, Chesna’s wife, Cynthia Chesna, stood at the steps of the church, a little girl at her side and a boy cradled in her arm. As one officer passed them and entered the church, he placed his white-gloved hand atop the girl’s head.
During the Mass, Comperchio read aloud a note written by Cynthia Chesna and addressed to her husband, calling him her best friend, and the “best dad the kids could ever have.”
“Mike, my hero, I will always love you, and forever,” Cynthia Chesna wrote.
Comperchio recalled the love Chesna had for his family, particularly his wife and two children, the pride he felt serving with his fellow Weymouth officers, and his strong support for local sports teams, particularly the New England Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick, whom Chesna regarded as a hero.
Before joining Weymouth police, Chesna was a member of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was awarded a Purple Heart, Comperchio said.
Members of Chesna’s Army unit attended his funeral, and as Comperchio asked them to stand, they were recognized by applause from mourners.
Chesna had wanted to be a police officer since he was a boy; it was a dream shared by his father and an uncle, but neither had reached it, Comperchio said.
But Chesna had devoted himself to that goal. While Chesna was in the police academy, he wrote a letter explaining what being a police officer meant to him.
“ ‘To me, a police officer is the highest order of public servant . . . when people are at their lowest points and mostin need of help, police officers must be of the highest moral character and be totally trustworthy by the public,’ ” Comperchio said, reading from Chesna’s letter.
Comperchio said police would be there for Chesna’s family.
“I promise you this: That the members of the Weymouth Police Department are your family, and you will never be alone,” Comperchio said.
The Rev. Christopher Hickey, who had served as a police cadet in Boston before becoming a seminarian, said those mourning Chesna’s death were “in this together.”
“Prayer does not make the tough times easy, but it can make the tough times easier,” Hickey said. “I hope the prayer of the church this day will bring you, most especially Cindy, and the family, some comfort.”
Outside the church, families, including many young children, stood on sidewalks and in yards near the church listening to the funeral proceedings through audio played outside through a speaker.
Blue ribbons and small American flags were placed along the streets leading to St. Mary’s Church. Chesna’s police cruiser,draped in black and blue ribbon, was parked in front of the church with its blue emergency lights flashing.
Following the funeral, Chesna’s flag-draped coffin was carried from the church by uniformed officers. Cynthia Chesna walked with them, her hand placed on top of the coffin.
The hearse carrying Chesna’s body to Blue Hill Cemetery in Braintree was driven along Hanover Street, underneath a massive American flag that was hoisted into the sky by the extended ladders of two fire trucks. A large blue sign on the side of one engine said, “Cops’ Lives Matter.”
Along the roadway, ranks of uniformed police officers stood at attention and saluted as the vehicle moved past, with an escort of motorcycle officers, police cruisers, and a color guard. Behind them, funeral attendees headed to the cemetery in buses.
Those officers in uniform wore black ribbons with blue stripes stretched across the badges they wore over their hearts.
Duxbury police lent their fellow officers a helping hand Friday, covering patrol shifts in Weymouth “to allow the WPD family to grieve the loss of Sgt. Chesna,” according to a Twitter post by Duxbury officers.
“We have your back!” Duxbury police wrote in the post.
Before the 11 a.m. start of the funeral, thousands of officers filed onto Hanover Street, filling the roadway with ranks of blue and black uniforms.
“Move with a purpose!” one officer shouted as he directed the police. “We have a lot of people here.”
When the officers were called to attention, the street was silent for a minute. The officers clenched their fists, as they stood still.
The silence was broken by the sound of a marching color guard, along with family members and Weymouth police officers, as they past the lines of officers and into the church.
The assembled officers represent law enforcement agencies from several states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and New York.
“These are always reminders of how dangerous the job of police work is and sometimes people take it for granted that things like this aren’t going to happen,” said Dudley police Chief Steven Wojnar, president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, told reporters before the funeral.
“But it’s a harsh reality that this is the possibility that someone faces every day when they go out and do this job,” he said.
Hanover resident Debbie Shields stoodoutside the church with her 3-year-old son, Nolan, in a stroller.
“We wanted to come and show our respect and appreciation and support for everyone, for all of law enforcement,” Shields said.
Diane Phinney, whose son is a police officer in Wareham, said she felt compelled to come and show her respects for the fallen officer.
As thousands of uniformed officers gathered, she called the scene “overwhelming.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “They stick together.”
Debbie Barry, whoalsostood outside during the funeral, was moved by the support for the Chesna family.
Barry’s husband is a retired sergeant with Weymouth police, and her brother-in-law is a lieutenant in the department. Even her son-in-law, a police officer in Bristol, Conn., traveled to Hanover to stand with the funeral detail Friday, she said.
It was a very emotional but beautiful service, she said.
“Given these times, I think everybody needed this,” Barry said.
Cohasset police Chief William P. Quigley said police officers were showing solidarity to the line-of-duty deaths of police officers.
Chesna is the second police officer in Massachusetts killed in the line of duty this year. In April, Yarmouth police Sergeant Sean Gannon was shot and killed by a suspect while trying to serve a warrant.
Quigley emphasized that the support police received in Hanover during the past two days as they hosted first the wake — including the walk-by of some 2,300 officers — and the funeral was very much welcomed by him and other officers.
Quigley said police officers face a dangerous environment on a daily basis.
“The job has changed so much,’’ he said. “It’s become very complex. It’s dangerous. . . . And there is a general lack of respect for law enforcement. Hopefully that is going to change.”J.D. Capelouto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Emily Williams can be reached at email@example.com. John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.