RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A procession moved through Raleigh on Wednesday to take the body of fallen Greensboro police officer home.
The body of Sgt. Philip Dale Nix, a 23-year veteran of the force, was in Raleigh at the Medical Examiner's Office undergoing an autopsy.
The procession spanned four counties and stretched miles. In addition to the officers in the procession, other law enforcement agencies could be seen standing at attention on overpasses and saluting from the side of the road.
Nix was shot and killed while attempting to stop three people accused of stealing a beer from a Sheetz gas station on Dec. 30.
Nix's death is a grim reminder of how dangerous and challenging the law enforcement profession can be. In this case, Nix was not even on duty, but it is part of officers' training to be a good witness when off-duty.
"I'm not criticizing the sergeant at all...he saw a young male (and) thought, 'Hey here's a teenager stealing some beer. I'm going to go up and identify myself as a sergeant with the Greensboro Police Department and tell them to put it back or I'm calling on-duty officers.' He didn't anticipate it being a deadly force situation and him getting shot," Capitol Special Police Chief Dr. Roy Taylor said. "That's why we tell officers when you're off-duty and you don't have all your equipment and nobody knows where you're at, don't get involved. Be a good witness and wait for on-duty cars to get there."
Authorities sent out a Blue Alert in an effort to track down the suspects when they sped off down Interstate 40.
The suspects were later caught in Winston Salem. They were identified as Jamere Justice Foster, 18, Z'quriah Le'Pearce Blackwell, 18, and John Walter Morrison, 28.
Foster was charged with first-degree murder, larceny, and conspiracy to commit larceny. He was being held with no bond.
Blackwell was charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. He was being held on a $500,000 bond.
Morrison was charged with accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, larceny, and conspiracy to commit larceny. He was being held without bond.