SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the state travelled to Springfield on Thursday to honor the lives of 11 Illinois officers who died in the line of duty since April of 2020.
It gave people in law enforcement a chance to be recognized and it gave families a chance to come together and mourn these heartbreaking losses.
The Illinois Police Memorial Committee puts this event on every year. Their goal is to never have to hold this ceremony again in hopes no officers are killed.
“It’s good to know, as you see people from all walks of life here today, that that family is not just the department, it’s not just the state police, it’s not just local police, but it’s all first responders,” said Brendan Kelly, Director of the Illinois State Police.
11 officers were honored on Thursday, their names etched into the police memorial outside the Illinois State Capitol. Those officers:
- Officer Joseph Capello, Melrose Park Police Department
- Officer Gary Hibbs, Chicago Heights Police Department
- State Trooper Todd Hanneken, Illinois State Police
- Lieutenant James Kouski, Hometown Police Department
- Officer Allen Giacchetti, Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department
- Officer Christopher Oberheim, Champaign Police Department
- Officer Brian Pierce, Brooklyn Police Department
- Officer Ella French, Chicago Police Department
- Officer Tyler Timmons, Pontoon Beach Police Department
- Deputy Sean Riley, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office
- Sergeant Marlene Rittmanic, Bradley Police Department
“When I see the families here, I hope that we’re giving the proper dignity and honor to their family,” said David Johnson, President of the Illinois Police Officers Memorial Committee. “Because that’s that’s what this is about.”
That sense of community granted solace to so many who were mourning.
“We’re all mourning in different ways,” said Officer Chris Madrusic of the Pontoon Beach Police Department. “And it’s nice to be able to talk to other people that are feeling the same way we are.”
Others, despite being surrounded by hundreds of people, still managed to steal private moments with their lost loved ones.
‘I was talking with my husband in my head and my heart,” said Christopher Oberheim’s wife Amber. “I was thinking about what he would think about all this. And there’s a time of reflection and just having a conversation with him in my head.”
Until the day comes that this ceremony is never held again, the lesson delivered by state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, is clear.
“To the family members, please know that while your loss is immeasurable and your anguish may at times seem unbearable, you are not alone.”
The Memorial Committee is already planning next year’s ceremony and knows the next name that will be added to the Capitol memorial: Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Weist, who died last week in the line of duty.