Illinois police, officials recognize fallen officers to ‘bring dignity and honor’ to family
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The dreary weather outside matched the somber mood indoors Thursday as the yearly memorial for fallen police officers in Illinois was moved out of the rain and into the State of Illinois library.
Eleven officers who died in the line of duty from as far back as April 2020, were recognized for their service.
For families, it’s a day of mourning their lost loved ones. President of the Illinois Police Memorial Committee Davis Johnson said he hopes it provides some closure and comfort to the family.
“Looking at the families every year and knowing what they’re going through and what they’ve gone through, all we do is try to hope we bring some honor and dignity to their family members,” he said.
In losing their loved ones, they’ve gained a community. Though, it’s a community Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza argued no one wants to be a part of. However, other surviving families are the only other people who may understand a fellow survivor’s grief.
“Thing thing about living a life experience like this one is there’s not a whole lot of other people who get it,” Oberheim said. “There’s not a whole lot of other people who understand what it’s like to walk through our shoes.”
She described her late husband Officer Chris Oberheim as “humble, disciplined, kind and committed,” with a heart “as big as they come.” He was killed in the early hours of May 19 in Champaign, Illinois. He had been with the Champaign Police Department for 13 years.
Hundreds of uniformed officers from different departments were in attendance, filling the main floor and balconies of the library. Included attendees were Gov. JB Pritzker, Lieutenant Gov. Julianna Stratton, Secretary of State Jesse White, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, and Mendoza.
“This is a horribly difficult and painful day. There’s nothing any of us, certainly not politicians, can say to make you feel better,” Mendoza said in her address to the crowd. “I understand that.”
Each family was presented with a plaque by the governor and given condolences by the other state officials. When going up to get her plaque, Oberheim said she gave a message to the governor.
“I told him that while his words were very noble, it was time for action. And that I expected him to step up in a big way for my law enforcement family,” Oberheim said.
For the other officers in attendance, this was a chance to support their fellow police while also serving as a somber reminder. Johnson said in his nearly 40 years of involvement with these ceremonies, he’s always reminded of the risks he faced.
“I always thank my lucky stars that I’m not on that wall,” Johnson said. “Everyone one of us at some point in time in our careers has done something, but for the grace of God and pure luck, we made it though.”
The names of the 11 officers will be added to the police memorial outside the Illinois Capitol Building.
The full list of Thursday’s honorees:
- Officer Joseph T. Cappello III of Melrose Park Police Dept.
- Officer Gary Steven Hibbs of Chicago Heights Police Dept.
- Senior Master Trooper Todd A. Hanneken of the Illinois State Police
- Lieutenant James J Kouski Jr. of Hometown Police Dept.
- Officer Allen Serta Giacchetti of the Cook County Sheriff’s Police
- Officer Christopher Neil Oberheim of Champaign Police Dept.
- Officer Brian Russel Pierce Jr. of Brooklyn Police Dept.
- Officer Ella Grace French of Chicago Police Dept.
- Officer Tyler Nathaniel Timmins of Pontoon Beach Police Dept.
- Deputy Sean Iam Riley of Wayne County Sheriff’s Dept.
- Sergeant Marlene R. Rittmanic of the Bradley Police Dept.
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