DES MOINES, Iowa -- Just days after the death of a 34-year-old Des Moines police officer, friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers poured into St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church for his visitation.
“This is like nothing else we have ever done before. We have had some large funerals here in the past but nothing to this magnitude,” said Father Ray McHenry.
Large bouquets of flowers and teddy bears are sprawled across the Des Moines police memorial squad car outside the church. The flashing lights paid constant homage to Officer Carlos Puente-Morales.
“It’s definitely a brotherhood, a family. They’re more than just colleagues. We find that we are all working very closely together to support Officer Puente-Morales' family,” Father McHenry said.
Inside the Catholic church, more flowers from police departments such as Urbandale, Newton, Dubuque and Cedar Rapids. Also in the church were artifacts from Puente-Morales' days with the Iowa National Guard, where he spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan earning a Combat Infantry Badge and an Army Achievement Medal.
"We've worked with the family and the police officers and members of the military,” Father McHenry said.
He expects around 2,300 to attend Friday’s funeral, and he is prepared to lift the hearts of many that are so heartbroken.
“Despite this tragedy, the whole idea of our funeral liturgy is to bring hope to people,” Father McHenry said.
Hope that Officer Puente-Morales has now found the same peace he had sworn to protect on the streets of Des Moines.
"There can be hope through this, and we can find comfort through this that Officer Puente-Morales is now in eternity,” Father McHenry said.
Officer Puente Morales' funeral service will begin Friday at 8:30 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church with a burial to follow at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Van Meter.