Thursday, December 11, 1997
Piper's sad song sends
fallen fellow officer home

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Stepping into a cold, raw wind, Stephen Watt bit his lip, took a deep breath and made Cincinnati cry.

He started playing ''Going Home'' on his bagpipes.

The notes of the spiritual floated slowly and mournfully into the wind Wednesday afternoon as he walked ahead of Daniel Pope's casket outside St. Peter in Chains Cathedral.

Steve Watt is a piper in the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Bagpipe and Drum Corps. A four-year veteran of the band, he was chosen to escort the casket of the Cincinnati police officer shot down early Saturday with his partner, Ronald Jeter. They were killed while serving a warrant for domestic violence.

A detective in the sheriff's department, Stephen Watt is a natural-born piper. He's a Scot.

Born in Ayr, Scotland, he loves the instrument with the big, sad sound. He understands its emotional pull.

''It can tear your heart out,'' he said as he took time out from warming up with 12 other band members before the funeral. They stood in a circle inside the Engine Company 14 firehouse at Fifth and Central. Just the sound of the pipes practicing put a catch in Stephen Watt's voice.

''That's why when I play a funeral,'' he said, ''I bite my lip and try to keep from crying as I play 'Going Home.' ''

Wednesday's service was the first time he has played for the funeral of an officer who died in the line of duty. Friday will be his second. That's when he and the band's pipers and drummers play for the funeral of Ronald Jeter.

Stephen Watt said he would not think about these firsts when it came time to play. Nor would he pay any mind to the dignitaries or the scale of a huge public funeral.

He would even try to forget that he and the fallen officers are in the same line of work. ''I serve the same kind of warrants they were serving when they died.''

He would put all of this out of his mind Wednesday when it came time to play ''Going Home.''

As the notes came loud and strong from his pipes, he would concentrate on one thing and one thing only, he said: ''I want to do my best for that man and his family. He did his best for us.''

After doing what he said he would at the funeral downtown, Stephen Watt and the pipes and drums band joined the funeral procession on the long ride to Spring Grove Cemetery.

At the end of the Spring Grove service, the band started playing ''Amazing Grace.'' On cue, Stephen Watt stepped from the group. The others stopped playing as he carried on with the old hymn's melody.

Slowly, but surely, he stepped off a steady pace over the cemetery's uneven terrain. He kept playing as he marched out of sight.

Letting the last note sigh from his bagpipes, he stopped marching and did an about face.

Then he did what he always does at the end of a funeral.

He turned and saluted the fallen officer.

And, he whispered two words: ''God bless.''

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

Today's report

A hero's farewell: Officer Pope laid to rest
Homily: Faith eases hurt, anger
Spc. Jeter's visitation today

Wednesday's report

Thousands pay their respects
Witness: Killer hid gun in pants
Web sites, other memorials
Pastor hopes funeral brings peace
Spc. Jeter's organs donated

Tuesday's report

911 boss admits error likely
Borgman cartoon
Shock, grief and guilt Laura Pulfer column
City thanks slain heroes
Killer's family visits his home
Many officers limited in experience
Forces across Tristate take heed
Names to be added to memorial

Monday's report

Argument preceded shooting
Tragedy puts face on job Cliff Radel column
Families lean on faith, memories
Friends, acquaintances mourn
Grief stays, say families who know
Police deaths declining

Sunday's report

Community mourns fallen officers
Suspect's family: He was 'respectful'
Sequence of events
Officers highly regarded
Officers deal with sorrow, job's risks
Chief's message: 'Take care of each other'
Hollister St. residents shocked