DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — A police flag flies at half-staff outside the Decatur Police Department, where Officer Chris Oberheim once served.
The city has lost one of its own, a Stephen Decatur graduate, baseball player, basketball player, coach and father, whose ties to Decatur remain strong.
Decatur Police Chief Jim Getz says he’s known Oberheim for a long time, not only through their time in the police force together, but also through coaching travel softball.
“He was a lot of fun,” Getz recalls. “He was a really great baseball player in his youth in high school and I got to know him working third shift for several – seven years as a matter of fact… I’ve heard stories of him going on no sleep and going to coach his daughters wherever they were so he was really committed to them and the other girls that were on the team.”
Getz says he’ll be missed in Decatur.
“We were lucky enough to have him here and he touched a lot of people’s lives,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of grown men with tears in their eyes this morning.”
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe’s son trained with Oberheim’s brother, who serves with the Decatur Police Department.
“It hurts,” she says. “It is devastating because even though Officer Oberheim didn’t spend his entire career here in Decatur, he is still a part of the Decatur Police Department family. Cops everywhere are part of one big family.”
She says Oberheim had remained close to members of both the police department and Macon County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff Antonio Brown says it’s been a difficult day.
“Obviously, it hits a bit different when it’s somebody you know and they’re literally like family that you worked alongside one time,” Brown says. “I just wish everyone would take the time to think about the sacrifices he made for the community and to keep us safe.”
Likewise, Moore Wolfe says policing has never been as difficult as it is now for the officers and their families.
“It really hits home because the bad apples in other police departments show up in the news and then all of the good guy cops get thrown in the same basket and it’s not fair,” Moore Wolfe, the mother of a sheriff’s deputy, says. “This kind of thing can happen. You don’t really believe it, because we’re not in an area that is New York City or Washington, D.C. or Chicago even. This is Central Illinois. So you don’t really feel like that threat is there, but you know it is in your heart and it’s hard.”