SPRING HILL — A steady stream of solemn visitors passed through the huge wooden doors of St. Theresa's Catholic Church Monday afternoon to pay their respects to Capt. Scott Bierwiler.
Although the mourners seemed to come from all walks of life, the majority attending the first of four scheduled visitations at the church were members of Hernando County's law enforcement community, whose black-striped badges honored the memory of their fallen colleague.
A 22-year veteran with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, Bierwiler died while on his way to work Thursday morning in a head-on collision on Powell Road.
Monday was the first opportunity for family members, friends and members of the public to pay their respects to the 42-year-old highly decorated officer whom Sheriff Richard Nugent last week called the "future of the agency."
Visitations also will be held today from 2-4 p.m. and from 6-8 p.m. at the church. The funeral Mass will be at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, with burial immediately following.
Given Bierwiler's recognition locally and throughout the national police ranks, officials are expecting hundreds of guests for the funeral.
Lt. Cinda Moore, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said family members have opened the service to the public.
Moore said the agency has planned for a large turnout Wednesday but hasn't been able to come up with an approximate figure.
"I'm sure it's going to be a surprise when we get there," she said. "We're just planning for a lot of people. We have no idea how many it's going to be."
With that in mind, the Sheriff's Office has warned of potentially long traffic delays because of the two-hour procession route for the funeral. The procession will run north from the church at 1107 Commercial Way to Spring Hill Drive, then turn east to the Florida Hills Memorial cemetery.
Moore said no streets will be closed during the procession, but drivers should be prepared for long delays along the route from 1:30 -3:30 p.m.
Officials said Monday that Andrew Frank Morris, the 16-year-old driver of an SUV that authorities say collided head-on with Bierwiler's unmarked police cruiser, was upgraded to fair condition at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.
Morris, a junior at Nature Coast Technical High School, was previously listed in serious condition. His family told the St. Petersburg Times that doctors placed their son in a medically induced coma after 8 1/2 hours of surgery Thursday night.
The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. The FHP reported that early Thursday, Morris left his home on Mertal Avenue in Weeki Wachee in his parents' 2002 Mitsubishi Montero without their permission.
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120. Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-1435.