He sat in that packed Charlotte courtroom on the last day Thursday, as he had every day of the trial of the man accused of killing his best friend.
John Rainier hung onto a rain jacket, and the bench, for support. The jury was walking in with a verdict.
Rainier, of the Rock Hill Police Department and best man all those years ago at Jeff Shelton's wedding, hadn't missed the trial of the man accused of killing Charlotte police officers Shelton and Sean Clark three and half years earlier.
Rainier wore civilian clothes, which is what you wear if you are assigned to the drug unit when your whole life is putting in jail the dope dealers who carry guns and push drugs, that kill kids one snort, or injection, or puff at a time.
Rainier recalled how he got the call in 2007 about the death of his best friend from his patrol lieutenant at the time - a Dick Tracy-jawed guy who has worked Rock Hill's streets for years and still does, named Don Doster.
Doster is a guy who tells every shift to this day to: "Walk out there with your chin up, take care of each other, and we all go home safe. We all go home together."
Rainier recalled how both he and Shelton were Marines and became best buddies at the police academy. How when Shelton took the job in Charlotte, working nights and Rainier took the job in Rock Hill, working nights, they would talk every night on the phone.
He recalled how they both almost quit their jobs to re-enlist in the Marines after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, "so we could go over there together and take care of business together."
But Shelton and Clark did not quit after the 9/11 terrorist attacks - working neighborhoods where guns are more prevalent than books - for one simple reason.
"We could defend people, protect them, right here where they are living, where they are raising their kids," said Rainier. "We could do our best. We could try."
And try Shelton did until a guy in a troubled apartment complex took a gun and shot him in the head. He shot officer Clark, too.
"Because of pure hatred, for the badge that Jeff wore," said Rainier.
A badge like Rainier wears every day of his life.
Rainier remembered a few months ago, when he was working, and the radio crackled that officers were shot in Rock Hill.
Those officers, too, were friends and co-workers, and he was at the scene in a flash. The feeling of being a police officer and having a dead best friend rose in his throat again - even though the injuries to officers Will Reap and Trista Baird did not leave them dead this time.
But Rainier then thought how even if some people in that neighborhood where Shelton died did not come forward with information, there were many people who did.
"Some took off their shirts and wrapped them around Jeff's head to try and stop the blood," Rainier said. "Some held him in their arms and comforted him, and some stood there and said, 'It is not right what just happened here.'"
"Good people, the people we serve."
Rainier remembered how a gruff old lieutenant in the Rock Hill Police Department grabbed him the next day in 2007 after Shelton was shot.
The lieutenant grabbed him by the back of the neck, with a grip like a C-clamp of iron, and told Rainier to go out there and help somebody that night and do his job. The lieutenant said to be strong in the memory of his buddy Shelton dead 25 miles away.
The lieutenant knew what he was talking about because he was once that police officer with a dead best friend, shot by someone evil who hated cops. That lieutenant went to parole hearings every year for decades and asked that the killer not be released.
Because in 1975, Steve Jordan's partner at the Rock Hill Police Department was a skinny young guy from the Mount Holly community south of Rock Hill named Jerry.
Now, 35 years later, every day of his working life including that day he grabbed Rainier by the scruff of the neck, Lt. Jerry Waldrop walked into the detective division at the Rock Hill Police Department where he has helped thousands of people victimized by bullets and knives and pipes and hate.
He walked right past and looked at the picture of the late Steve Jordan and said to himself as he did Thursday and Friday and all days: "You remember it all over again, so you try to help somebody, somewhere."
Over the weeks of the Charlotte trial, John Rainier never missed a night shift of work. Somebody's kid did not get a chance to take dope, but maybe go to college someday or have a decent life, because Rainier busted the guy trying to sell the drugs. His life's work is that simple.
Rainier recalled giving the eulogy at Shelton's funeral in 2007, before several thousand people in Charlotte. So many cops cried - then went back out to work helping strangers.
Rainier was one of them.
There was silence in the courtroom Thursday afternoon before Rainier heard the word come out: "Guilty."
And a few minutes later outside, he started to get messages on his cell phone from police officers in Rock Hill, and York County, and Fort Mill and other places as word spread.
The messages told him what he already knew, guilty, and offered him encouragement and thanks for three and half years of caring for Jeff Shelton, his dead friend.
For starting the Forever Blue Foundation, a nonprofit that helps police officers' families, in honor of Clark and Shelton. And more, for years of caring for strangers Rainier helps every working day of his life.
Then John Rainier went to work Thursday after the verdict. He worked until long after midnight.
On Friday he got up, and in the afternoon, ready for the night where the action is, where the people need help, where the dope dealers and the cop killers of the world lurk, John Rainier went to work again.