ADNA — A procession of more than 350 vehicles stretched across state Route 6 Sunday afternoon as part of a memorial convoy for Washington State Patrol Trooper Justin Schaffer, who was killed in the line of duty.
Dozens of log trucks, towing trucks, civilian vehicles and 94 motorcycles, many flying American flags, traveled from the Lewis County Mall at 2 p.m. and drove to Adna High School in a slow procession to honor Schaffer, an Adna High School graduate.
Schaffer, 28, was struck and killed by a fleeing motorist while deploying spike strips on Interstate 5 in Chehalis on March 24. The trooper is survived by his wife Sandra, his mother, father and brother. His father, Glenn Schaffer, is the Chehalis police chief.
Schaffer had been with the state patrol for seven years and had been a K9 handler since 2018 with his partner Frankie. Schaffer had been with the Chehalis unit of the Washington State Patrol since Dec. 13, 2018. He is the 30th Washington State Patrol member to be killed in the line of duty in the agency’s 99-year history and the first in Lewis County.
The convoy began arriving at Adna High School at 2:35 p.m. and the line continued to trickle in until around 3:30 p.m.
Many vehicles had signs and window paint reading, “Thank you for your service, Justin,” “Gone but not forgotten” and “We are praying for you.” Every type of vehicle from classic Plymouth muscle cars to septic tank trucks, and even a couple five-plus ton vintage U.S. military 6-by-6 trucks were in attendance. One log truck from Knappa, Oregon, was a part of the convoy.
In addition to the hundreds of vehicles, hundreds of spectators also lined the roads on the route to pay their respects. Along the route, North National Avenue and West Main Street in Chehalis were filled with people and cars on the sides of the roads, along with state Route 6 and Bunker Creek Road near the Adna Grocery Store. The only places without spectators were portions of state Route 6 that have no shoulder.
Chehalis resident Dustin Hines was one of the organizers of the event that started on Facebook titled, “Convoy in Remembrance of WSP646 Justin Schaffer.” Hines figured Schaffer wouldn’t get a big celebration of life that he deserved with the novel coronavirus outbreak ruling out any big gatherings, so he and his fellow truckers began thinking of how they could show Schaffer’s family that the community was behind them.
“We thought, one thing we can do is get a bunch of people in their cars, a safe distance from each other, and just go on a little convoy and show (his family) how much his sacrifice and service meant to the rest of the community,” Hines said.
Hines had been a part of a couple convoys in the past but nothing of this magnitude or size. Hines was near the front of the procession in his log truck and said the entire convoy was on the road for a total of 90 minutes. After looping around Adna High School, the stream of vehicles drove by Schaffer’s parents' house in Adna and gave them a giant banner that read, “Washington State Patrol. In loving memory. Justin Schaffer.” It showed one photo of Schaffer and one of his badge with the number 646. The banner was made by Brett Daugherty, a childhood friend of Schaffer’s, who owns the digital printing company Evolve Prints in Chehalis. Hines and Daugherty stopped at Schaffer’s parent’s house afterwards and gave them the banner. The family hung it up right away.
“They told us, ‘Thank you.’ They were in tears,” Hines said. “It seemed like we were doing a good thing and they were really touched to see that whole community come out like that.”
Hines said it was a group effort to organize the event, which had around 150 people marked as "going" just before the event started. That number had tripled from its previous mark on Saturday. But Hines was blown away by how many people actually showed up to be a part of the convoy and watch from the sides of the roads.
“It turned out to be huge,” Hines said. “I’m at a loss of words. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was to see all those people commit to this and pull together as a community.”