With a pandemic raging and limits on social gatherings, grieving as a community has become hard to do. But Ogden residents found a way as the sun set Thursday.
Crowds lined streets throughout the city, candles in hand, as a police memorial procession rolled by landmarks in the life of fallen officer Nate Lyday.
His childhood home on Custer Avenue, where his mother still lives. Weber State University, where he graduated with a degree in criminal justice in 2018. Ogden Police headquarters, where the young officer had landed his dream job only 15 months ago.
The city municipal building, a symbol of the community Lyday served. McKay-Dee Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead after he was shot in the line of duty on May 28, trying to help a woman who feared for her life.
Lindquist Mortuary, where his body still lies in state under 24-hour guard.
Saturday, the day of Lyday’s scheduled funeral at Lindquist Field, would have been his fifth anniversary with his wife, Ashley Lyday.
“It was his biggest dream, to be a police officer,” said Jacquelyn Mesmer, Lyday’s 19-year-old cousin, who waited on the street where the officer grew up. She and her brother, Bronson Mesmer, 23, were close in age to Lyday, who died at 24.
“He’d come over at least twice a week,” Bronson Mesmer said. “When we were kids, we’d play cops and robbers. He always had to be the cop. That’s just what he wanted to do,” Jacquelyn Mesmer added.
Across the street, retired history teacher and coach Dave Brown recalled having Lyday as a student at Ogden High School. “It just breaks my heart. I love law enforcement,” Brown said.
He said many of his former students went on to join police academies in Utah. He worries about them all. “They take their lives in their hands every day,” Brown said.
Blue and black ribbons fluttered in trees, from city signs and on power poles that lined much of the procession’s route. Patrol cars and police motorcycles, blue lights flashing, led the way for Lyday’s flower-strewn cruiser.
Shortly before the procession came by, Sgt. Andrew Smith with Bountiful Police handed out candles to those in the neighborhood who had gathered to watch. Although Smith did not know Lyday personally, he said losing an officer is hard on the entire law enforcement community.
“It’s an unfortunate part of the job. It definitely makes you change and think differently when you’re approaching calls,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, we have to learn from every tragic event.”
A summary released Wednesday by the Weber County Attorney’s Office said Lyday didn’t have time to defend himself or pull out his own gun before a suspect in a domestic violence call shot and killed him. Lyday and another officer were at an Ogden home on the afternoon of May 28 after a woman called 911 and said that her husband had beat her and threatened to kill her, according to the report.
Lyday was the first officer to arrive, and he stood at the front porch talking to the uncooperative suspect, John Coleman, through a glass storm door before a second officer arrived, the summary says. “[Body camera] video shows that both officers remained calm and professional with Coleman as they attempted to investigate the domestic violence call from Coleman’s wife.”
Two Adult Probation and Parole agents also responded to the call. Coleman refused to open the storm door, according to the attorney’s office, and eventually, he stepped back inside his home and shut the interior door.
As Lyday turned away to speak to the other officer, Coleman allegedly opened the interior door part way and fired a rifle at Lyday through the glass storm door, killing him instantly, the summary says.
The other Ogden officer drew his gun and returned fire as Coleman continued to shoot out the front of his home. The parole agents also returned fire as Coleman moved into a room on the north side of his home and continued shooting.
One of the agents was shot in the arm as he tried to rescue Lyday. After the gunfight eventually ceased, the agent who was wounded was dragged out of the area by his fellow agent. He was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for wounds to his hand and arm.
Other Ogden police officers who had arrived used a ballistics shield, and pulled Lyday away from the home.
A SWAT team went into the home about 40 minutes later, and found several guns and ammunition "readily accessible" to Coleman and "apparently placed strategically for a protracted shoot-out with law enforcement," according to the summary.
Coleman was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head inside the northeast room of the home. He was killed during the shootout with police, investigators believe. The attorney’s office said that the Weber County Force Investigation Team will continue investigating the shooting.
Although the pandemic created challenges for officers and the community as they sought ways to honor Lyday’s memory Thursday, law enforcement can always adapt, Smith said.
“It’s awesome to see that even with all the restrictions in place and the pandemic," he said, "we still have people coming and officers doing their best to pay their respects.”