Fallen Ohio officer remembered

50 squad cars follow Jason West's body to Avon

By Maggi Martin
Cleveland Plain Dealer

AVON, Ohio — Georgine and Tom West wore their pain on their faces as they watched the body of their only son - Cleveland Heights police officer Jason West - rolled into a funeral home Sunday.

West, 31, was shot in the face while responding to a large fight on Altamont Avenue in Cleveland Heights Friday night.

He used his cruiser to block a car that suspect Timothy Halton Jr. had backed into a driveway near the brawl. Halton stepped out and shot West, police said.

Halton, 27, of South Euclid, was arrested shortly afterward. Charges against him are pending.

West was an organ donor, according to the Cuyahoga County coroner's office, so the autopsy on him was delayed until Sunday.

Once his body was released, a caravan of 50 squad cars and motorcycles escorted West to Misencik Funeral Home in Avon on Sunday.

Services are set for Thursday, with calling hours at the funeral home on Wednesday night. In addition, Avon residents plan to light luminaries on various city streets on Tuesday and Wednesday evening to honor the sacrifice West made and to show his family his memory will live on in other officers and friends.

"We are showing our support because he grew up here and worked here as an officer before going to Cleveland Heights," said Avon Patrolman Eric Bergen, his badge darkened by a black band in West's honor. "We are all brothers and sisters in blue. Today, it feels like we lost family."

Cleveland Heights officers, who stood in formation to bid their friend farewell at the funeral home, could not hide their red-rimmed eyes. Several said they could not yet speak about their colleague.

West was dedicated to helping people in need, friends said.

"He embodied what police work was all about," said Tom DeChant, a retired Avon police officer, longtime neighbor and friend. "He had respect for everybody."

"He was a great kid and a fine young man," said Bobbie DeChant, who lived next door, baked cookies for him and drove the Avon school bus West rode to Avon schools.

"We are all in disbelief. We are all so sad. He was their only son," she said.
Jason West's parents, his sister, Ann Rehark, and his grandmother were among those who joined the procession and later followed the body into the funeral home.

His lifelong goal was to be an officer.

A football and baseball player at Avon High, West was recruited at Tiffin University to play baseball for the Tiffin Dragons.

"He never wanted to be a major league player. All he ever wanted to be was be a good police officer," said Lonny Allen, West's baseball coach at Tiffin.

West graduated with a criminal justice degree in 2000.

DeChant helped train West during his internship in 2000 at the Avon Police Department.

Training him was easy, DeChant said, adding that West was hired by Cleveland Heights before he even graduated from the Police Academy.

He said West rose through the ranks quickly and was a motorcycle officer for several years before being promoted to investigator.

"His death puts all of us on edge," DeChant said. "We all feel the pain. He was the best of people and the best of cops."

News researcher Cheryl Diamond contributed to this story.

Copyright 2007 Cleveland Plain Dealer


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