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Hundreds of first responders, from near and far, honor fallen Buffalo Police diver

It was a day of mourning, and camaraderie among police and other first responders, a day of support from the Patriot Guard lining the approach road, and a day of outpouring of support from the public and even squads of therapy dogs. It was all that and more to help people get through the first day of Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner's wake at a Hamburg funeral home.

The whole day was very quiet, occasionally punctuated by speeding freight trains a few hundred yards away. Men and women in police patrol cars, unmarked cars, on foot and on shuttle buses from distant parking lots brought a steady flow of support to Craig Lehner's family.

Inside the funeral home, it was members of Lehner's Underwater Recovery Team, his K-9 teammates and their dogs, and many of the teams that spent five days searching for the officer who went missing during a training exercise.

Buffalo City Comptroller Mark Schroeder said he lived near Lehner and his family members and heard that the officer had the gifts of a great cop.

Credit Buffalo Police Department

"He was extremely respectful in that he just wanted to do his best, each and every day," said Schroeder. "I'm told that he had some fun with his mom when he actually went up in an airplane and did some skydiving or something like that and he wanted to tell her that he did that and his mom said, 'You always push it a little bit, don't you?'"

Police were given the opportunity to have a private wake before the public event to have a chance to mourn in the company of other officers who knew Lehner.

Funeral home President Charles Castiglia said police had a private viewing from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m, which was "very well attended."

"We have police coming from agencies all over the region, which was a wonderful pouring out of support," Castiglia said. "That was hopefully to relieve congestion, which it has, to allow people to come and pay their respects from the public. So it gave the police to have their own time alone with their fallen brethren and then allow more room for people to come for the other hours."

All day, uniformed officers from departments across the region and as far as Toronto came to pay respects, along with others who wore civilian clothes and carried badges, all discreetly marked with black tape in memory of a fallen officer. The SPCA also donated therapy dogs, marked by gray or blue scarves, to circulate through the crowd.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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