This 2007 photo shows Somerset County Cpl. Sheriff Eugene Cole , who was killed early Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Norridgewock, Maine. His funeral will be held Monday in Bangor. Credit: Jeff Pouland | AP

JetBlue Airlines is offering free flights to any public service official who wants to attend the memorial service for the Somerset County sheriff’s deputy who was fatally shot late last month while on patrol.

Tickets have been given to law enforcement officials flying to Maine this weekend to attend Cpl. Eugene Cole’s visitation and memorial service from as far away as Phoenix, Chicago, Orlando, New York City, and along the entire Eastern Seaboard, said JetBlue Manager of Corporate Communications Morgan Johnston.

The offer of a free round-trip plane ticket for law enforcement officials or community members during times of tragedy is something the airline has been doing for several years, he said.

“We are honored to help now, just as we have in the past,” Johnston said. “We have a long history of supporting public service professionals in the communities where JetBlue crewmembers live and work.”

Cole, 61, was shot in the neck and killed while on patrol in the early morning hours on Wednesday, April 25, by a suspect who fled, stealing Cole’s marked police truck and robbing a convenience store before abandoning the truck on a two-lane road in Norridgewock. John D. Williams, 29, evaded police for four days, triggering a sprawling nationwide manhunt. He was found in the Norridgewock woods and arrested on Saturday, April 29, and charged in the killing.

Cole’s murder brought together in solidarity state and local law enforcement officials, who hadn’t seen one of their own killed in the line of duty in nearly 30 years. As many as 8,500 people are expected to attend the funeral, scheduled for noon Monday, May 7, at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Johnston said the company’s offer of a free plane ticket to attend the funeral of a fallen public servant is fairly well known among most law enforcement communities, but for those who want more information about how to attend Cole’s funeral, he said to call 800-JetBlue.

“It’s a stressful time for everyone. These are public service professionals who dedicate their lives to serving their communities, [and] we want to offer support,” Johnston said.

The gesture, he said, is just a way to “step in and offer a little bit of comfort.”

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