Fallen Pa. trooper remembered as hero, joker

YATESVILLE, Pa. Joshua Miller was a highly committed member of the Pennsylvania state police a trooper's trooper obsessed with physical fitness and taking drunken drivers off the road.

But the 34-year-old Marine veteran had another side, glints of the mischievous schoolboy he once was betraying his square-jawed intensity. He told tall tales about his prowess as a hunter, ribbed colleagues mercilessly, sponged food, loved getting free T-shirts. He grinned ear-to-ear whenever he spoke about his three daughters. He was so in love with his wife that he once left her a piece of tape with an imprint of his lips a "kiss."

That more intimate side of Miller emerged during his funeral service Friday as hundreds of police officers from 48 states gathered on a football field in northeastern Pennsylvania to mourn and honor the fallen trooper, killed in a shootout Sunday night while helping to rescue a boy who had been kidnapped by his father.

A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press Friday that surveillance footage from a sporting goods store showed the man's girlfriend purchasing the handgun in late May. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation into how Daniel Autenrieth, 31, got the gun is not complete.

Autenrieth was not permitted to have a weapon under the terms of a protection-from-abuse order.

After arguing with his estranged wife Sunday night, Autenrieth kidnapped his son at gunpoint and led police on a 40-mile chase into the Pocono Mountains, then opened fire as troopers rushed his car. Autenrieth and Miller died in the gunbattle and another trooper was wounded.

Miller and Trooper Robert Lombardo, 35, who was hit in the torso, were credited with distracting Autenrieth while other officers whisked the boy to safety. Autenrieth's son was unhurt.

"On Sunday, June 7, 2009, there would be no compromise of duty," state police commissioner Col. Frank Pawlowski said at the funeral service, held on the football field at Pittston Area High School. "Evil was met with bold courage and an unrelenting will to do what must be done."

Pawlowski posthumously awarded Miller the state police Medal of Honor, giving the medal to his sobbing widow, Angela, a state police communications operator.

The funeral procession was led by a kilt-wearing drum and bagpipe corps, followed by a hearse bearing the emblem of the United States Marine Corps and a riderless horse. The football field was a sea of dress uniforms in various shades of blue, brown, gray and black. At least four officers fell ill due to the heat, including a state police lieutenant taken off the football field on a stretcher.

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