By Tammy Stables Battaglia
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Family, friends and hundreds of police officers gathered to say goodbye to a Detroit Police officer called "a real-life hero," who died after a gun battle while working in a unit that arrests violent criminals.
Officer Patrick Hill, 37 — a University of Michigan graduate nicknamed "Wolverine" by his fellow officers — died Oct. 19. Called "a real life hero," by Detroit Police Chief James Craig, Hill was also honored at his funeral today at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit by U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
"Today we renew our commitment — all of us — to doing what he did," McQuade said in front of more than 300 officers, Hill's wife and four children. "So that we can all lay our heads down at night and be safe and be comfortable, it takes brave men like Patrick Hill, who are willing to sacrifice their lives to be brave, knowing this day may come, but they do it anyway."
Hill, a 12-year veteran officer and married father of four, was hit in the head with a pellet during a shootout with a murder suspect April 2. He had been in a coma at Henry Ford Hospital since the shooting.
"He was one of my better training candidates -- his willingness to help others," his training officer, Detroit Police Officer Mark Golembiewski, said before the service. "He was just always there when somebody needed a hand."
Craig thanked Hill's wife and four children, ages 3 through 16, for their sacrifice. Hill, a 1994 graduate of Cass Tech High School was a walk-on player for the University of Michigan football team and earned his degree in 1999. Hill then graduated at the top of his Detroit Police academy class in August 2001.
"Since assuming the position of chief of police on July 1, I have faced many challenges in making this a better department," Craig said. "The greatest challenge is having to bear the loss of one of our beloved officers."
Craig pointed out that about a month ago, the department also lost Detroit Police Officer Rodney "Hot Rod" Jones. Jones, 49, a 28-year department veteran, died in September after collapsing during a motorcycle skills event in Flint.
Craig noted that Hill had received the department's highest honor, an award for saving someone's life. Hill was currently working in a joint task force with federal agencies focused on firearms, Craig said.
"Patrick was real police: hardworking, dedicated, intelligent, consummate professional and ideal teammate," Craig said. "His teammates loved Patrick for his work ethic, great sense of humor, and for knowing they could always depend on him to have their backs when needed. As always, Patrick always put team first before any of his individual goals. And his supervisors commended him for his leadership, always helping his partners in capturing the most violent criminals that have plagued our city."
Investigators say a pellet from an officer's shotgun ricocheted off the hood of a car and struck Hill. The matter was turned over to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office but no charges were filed. The suspect, who shot a sergeant in the leg and is believed to have wounded Hill, died at the scene.
Hill's wife and partner of 15 years, Deodge "De" Hill, asked anyone not in uniform to wear a color other than black to the services. The department sent out a message to all officers about her request, department spokeswoman Kelly Miner said.
"It's a celebratory occasion," said Miner, wearing a robin's egg blue coat. "We're celebrating the life of him, not the death of him."
McQuade echoed those thoughts, noting Hill's accomplishments.
"Today is a day of inspiration," McQuade said. "I draw great inspiration from a life well-led. Patrick Hill is a great role model for all of us, a guy who graduated from Cass Tech High School, worked his way onto the football team at the University of Michigan, graduated from the University of Michigan, then came back to serve his community as a Detroit Police officer. Today is a day of inspiration."
Dozens of law enforcement vehicles — including one from Skokie, Ill. — participated in the processional from the church on 7 Mile near Telegraph to Westlawn Cemetery in Wayne.
The funeral program is full of pictures of Hill hugging his children and family, playing softball with a team of fellow officers and wearing the Detroit Police uniform.
Hill was also a stand-out softball player with the Great Lakes Lawmen. He was named most valuable player for the Wouters-Sawyers Memorial in 2011 and 2012 — a tournament held in honor of other fallen officers — and a national police softball tournament in 2012, according to his funeral program.
"Heaven needed a third baseman," the memorial reads.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 the Detroit Free Press