Springfield ceremony honors police officers killed in the line of duty

Governor JB Pritzker speaks Thursday at a ceremony honoring fallen police officers at the State Library of Illinois.  Due to rain, the ceremony was moved from the Illinois Police Department Memorial to the State Library. [Thomas J. Turney/The State Journal-Register]

As rain fell steadily in Springfield Thursday morning, there was a somber sentiment among law enforcement officers and elected officials who gathered at the Illinois State Library to honor 11 fallen officers killed in exercise of their functions in 2021.

“I have a heavy heart when I think of the loss of these 11 people, it’s a sad day for all of us,” said Secretary of State Jesse White.

The 11 officers honored were Officer Joseph T. Cappello III of the Melrose Park Police Department; Chicago Heights Police Department Officer Gary Steven Hibbs; Illinois State Police Private Todd A. Hanneken; Hometown Police Department Lt. James J. Kouski Jr.; Officer Allen Serta Giacchetti of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department; Champaign Police Department Officer Christopher Neil Oberheim; Brooklyn Police Department Officer Brian Russell Pierce Jr; Officer Ella Grace French of the Chicago Police Department; Constable Tyler Nathaniel Timmins of the Pontoon Beach Police Department; Deputy Sean Ian Riley of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office; and the sergeant. Marlene R. Rittmanic of the Bradley Police Department.

Family members of deceased officers received plaques from Governor JB Pritzker and received a wreath to commemorate their loved one.

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Amber Oberheim, widow of Officer Neil Oberheim, said in a follow-up interview that the event speaks volumes for lawmakers and elected officials because when someone loses a loved one while serving, they all feel it.

“I think the scale of the number of people who were here waiting for change and support for law enforcement, I think, will hopefully speak volumes to our leaders,” she said.

Officer Oberheim was fatally shot at 3:20 a.m. on May 19, 2021, while responding to a domestic disturbance call at an apartment complex in Champaign. He served with the Champaign Police Department for 13 years.

In a moving tribute to fallen officers, Comptroller Susana Mendoza said the job is too often thankless and individuals “voluntarily choose to take an oath to protect and serve” people they have never met and are willing to give their lives to protect others.

“It’s a horribly difficult and painful thing,” Mendoza said. “There’s nothing any of us, certainly not us politicians, can say to make you feel better.”

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Mendoza said she thinks it’s important that all officers take care of their mental and physical well-being because of the consequences the job can have.

She shared the story of her brother, who worked for the Chicago Police Department for more than 20 years on the third shift, didn’t always make the healthiest lifestyle choices and was diagnosed with diabetes. type 2.

In November 2020, Mendoza said his brother was hospitalized for more than 17 days with COVID-19 and battled life-threatening conditions, including a stroke and loss of both kidneys. She said he survived and was slowly recovering, but his life would never be the same again.

Mendoza said she wants every officer to understand that “you are human and everything is fine” to ask for help when needed and lean on others for support, and that well-being mental and physical should be the top priority.

Speakers then thanked the officers for making immense, and sometimes even ultimate, sacrifices to protect those in and around their community.

Pritzker also acknowledged Knox County Deputy Nicholas Weist, who was killed in the line of duty on April 29, 2022.

According to an Illinois State Police news release, Weist was responding to an emergency call about an individual armed with a gun at a Circle K gas station in Galesburg when he was struck. and killed by the suspect vehicle while laying spike strips.

“Each of these communities of officers have been forever altered, teams forever bereaved, families that will never be restored again,” Pritzker said.

The names of fallen officers will be engraved on the memorial statue which stands on the West Lawn of the State Capitol.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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