By Michael Shaw ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Copyright 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
CAHOKIA Jeremy Chambers was more than a police officer, his stunned colleagues and friends said after learning that Chambers was killed early Monday morning when his squad car was struck head-on by a driver who police say had been drinking.
Chambers, 26, was a volunteer firefighter who sped to New York to help after the attack on the World Trade Center. He later worked as an emergency medical technician before joining the Cahokia force in 2003, and he was a lifeguard at the Cahokia pool as a teen.
But he was happiest as a cop, said those who watched Chambers develop from the son of a respected officer into a respected officer himself.
"What I think of is his dedication to the job," said Cahokia Police Chief Rick Watson, who knew Chambers for all of the patrolman's life and was clearly drained by Monday's events. "No one ever had a cross word about Jeremy. Even if he was giving them a ticket."
Chambers was the first officer to die in the line of duty in the village's 79-year history.
Watson recalled eating dinner with Chambers' parents, Earl and Diane, when Jeremy Chambers was a week old. Earl Chambers retired from the department several years ago as a captain.
Some young officers were in tears when they emerged from a closed meeting where the news of the accident was announced Monday morning.
The crash is being investigated by the Illinois State Police.
The State Police reported that Chambers was driving north on Illinois Route 3 about 2 a.m. Monday, after dropping off an auxiliary officer at the Cahokia station, when a full-sized GMC pickup heading south crossed into the northbound lanes. The crash flipped Chambers' squad car and sent it into a ditch.
The front end of Chambers' car on the driver's side was crushed, and it took emergency workers until after 3 a.m. to pull him from the wreckage, Watson said. The State Police said Chambers was not wearing his seat belt.
The driver of the pickup was injured and is recovering at a hospital, authorities said. The State Police said alcohol was involved on the part of the driver and identified him only as a 37-year-old man from St. Louis. Authorities said the St. Clair County state's attorney's office is considering charges.
A 36-year-old woman also was in the pickup. Police did not disclose her name or whether she was injured.
Chambers was flown by helicopter to St. Louis University Hospital. Watson and about 20 other officers went to the hospital, and were told at 5 a.m. that Chambers had died.
Chambers, a Cahokia High School graduate, comes from a police background. In addition to his father's service, a brother, Earl Christopher Chambers, serves with the St. Louis County Police Department.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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