Thousands mourn death of Ill. officer, K-9 partner
Hundreds of his brothers in blue and thousands of others turned out Saturday to say farewell to the Pontiac officer who "had the world by the tail"
By Kevin Barlow
PONTIAC, Ill. — Casey Kohlmeier always knew he wanted to be a cop, and hundreds of his brothers in blue and thousands of others turned out Saturday to say farewell to the Pontiac officer who "had the world by the tail."
"When he joined our department and was in training, every report we received said that he was exceptional and ready to go," Pontiac Police Chief Jim Woolford said during Kohlmeier's funeral Saturday. "He knew all of his tasks, he knew officer safety, he knew the public and he knew how to speak to them. At the police department, we hold that in very high regard. He reminded us that being a trainee wasn't good enough and he was ready to be a supervisor in week two. He excelled and within two years, he had the world by the tail and was already a master patrolman, an officer who can also supervise a shift."
Kohlmeier, 29, of Pontiac, and his department K-9, Draco, died Wednesday night in a traffic accident on Interstate 55 near Pontiac. Draco was laid to rest with his partner.
"Draco was a good officer who did what he was told," Woolford said. "Those two single-handedly kept our community safer."
Saunemin United Methodist Church Pastor Jane Bradford, who led the service, said Kohlmeier was active in a number of activities, had recently earned his pilot's license and was a U.S. Air Force veteran.
"It was a life that was full and fulfilled," she told mourners who filled the auditorium of Pontiac Township High School and an overflow crowd in a nearby room.
Duffy-Baier-Snedecor Funeral Home was unable to provide an estimate on how many people attended the service, but said many waited in line for more than three hours during the morning visitation.
"It was a long wait," said Pontiac resident Linda Holtz. "But I waited because I wanted to pay my respects. I didn't know Casey personally, but I know a lot of people who did and it's amazing what kind of impact he had on our community."
More than 150 police and K-9 units led processionals through downtown Pontiac after the funeral.
"I am here to pay my respects," said Pontiac resident Jim Linnett. "I was thinking about going to the visitation and then I heard about the long lines and the crowd, so I was feeling a little bad that I didn't go. But I heard about this and thought that this would be the same thing and I'm glad I came and glad that we have a few hundred people who also came. When something like this happens, it makes you think."
Woolford, in his eulogy, reflected on his officer's well-known, longtime goals.
"Casey decided on his career at a very young age and he joined the LACC (Livingston Area Career Center)," he said. "With that, he went on several ride-alongs and we all knew he wanted to be in the FBI and that he wanted to be in law enforcement. He told us that lots of times."
The community's feeling of loss was echoed by Kohlmeier's friends and by strangers.
"Everybody was talking about the parade of police cars on Facebook last night and I think it's about pride," said Brad Connors of Pontiac, who attended both the funeral and processional. "I didn't know Casey, and probably most that are out here didn't either. But a lot of people thought it was important that the downtown area be filled and I can't think of a better reason than this one."
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