ROCKFORD - The brothers and sisters in blue turned out by the hundreds on Saturday to carry fallen Rockford Police Officer Jaimie Cox to his rest. Police vehicles from south of Chicago to Green Bay lined the parking lot of First Free Evangelical Church.
"As much as it hurts, being able to see that brotherhood come together and see how much we support each other is uplifting in the moment of crisis," said Beloit Police Officer Jamie Linder.
The Stateline Area has been mourning the death of Officer Cox, a Hononegah High School graduate, who died Nov. 5 following an altercation with a man during a traffic stop. The incident left Cox dead along with the driver of the vehicle involved in the stop, Rockford resident Eddie Patterson.
Cox had served in the U.S. National Guard and joined the department in December 2016 after working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in the state agency's law enforcement division. He became the seventh Rockford officer killed in the line of duty since 1917.
Police officers packed the balcony inside the church on Saturday to show their support. During the funeral, speakers said Cox was caring, loved the outdoors and went out of his way to help others.
Rockford Police Chief Daniel O'Shea said Cox was eager, sincere and honest. Rockford Mayor Thomas McNamara said the world needed more heroes like Cox, those who run into danger as opposed to running away from it.
Rockford Park District Officer Lisa Hodges performed "Go Rest High on that Mountain" and "Amazing Grace."
Before the funeral began, Capron Rescue Squad paramedic Jeff Wessel said he came to show support for a fallen officer. He said he didn't think police have enough support and appreciation.
"It's a tragic thing that has happened," Wessel added.
Hampshire Police Officers Melissa Hughes and Douglas Brox also came to pay their respects. "We are a family and want to show support since we are brothers and sisters," Brox said.
Brox and Hughes said the turnout showed a large majority of the community supports police departments and that is encouraging.
Some citizens also braved the cold to pay their respects. Melissa Sbertoli of Rockford brought her brother-in-law, sister and two children to line the procession route following the funeral. She said she was trying to teach her children the importance of police, how they serve and protect.
"They put their lives on the line for us every day," she said.
Sbertoli said Saturday's turnout was great and shows community support for police, but police need more recognition on a daily basis.
Beloit Police Sgt. Ryan Flanagan and Officers Jamie Linder and Joe Foy attended the service in dress uniform as part of the Honor Guard in addition to other Beloit Police officers. On Friday night, about half a dozen Beloit officers went to the visitation.
Linder said there is nothing more prestigious in law enforcement than being part of the Honor Guard. Serving in Honor Guard at a line of duty funeral is a way to honor a person who has sacrificed everything.
"That level of honor and prestige is necessary in law enforcement. Often we forget what our true mission is and the fact we are willing to sacrifice ourselves in our entirety to do the job in front of us. We have to remember how honorable it is, and it's sad we are reminded too often what we are giving," Linder said.
It wasn't the first time Linder had honored a fellow officer who gave the ultimate sacrifice while on the job. As part of the Honor Guard she attended the funeral of fallen Rusk County Deputy Dan Glaze, who was shot and killed when responding to a call in October 2016 as well as the funeral for McFarland Police Officer Ryan Copeland, who was killed in a vehicle collision in November 2015.
Linder recalled while driving in a caravan with law enforcement from Janesville and Rock County last year to Rusk County, they stopped at a rest stop where they met other officers who joined their caravan. "That is the brotherhood," she said.
Linder said there are a variety of ways an officer can be killed on the job.
"It reminds us how human we are and how we can face the ultimate sacrifice in any part of our job," she said.
Linder said Cox sacrificed all of himself for the good of the community. She said that's why law enforcement officers do their jobs. She said the people she works with are willing to take a bullet for fellow officers, the community and those unrepresented.
Flanagan said it's always difficult to see a family who has lost someone to violence. It's especially difficult to see such a tragedy involving an officer so close to home.
"We know guys in Rockford and know they are hurting. We know what our agency would experience," Flanagan said.
Flanagan said the violence against officers is here, just south of Beloit. He noted In late September a Winnebago County sheriff's deputy was shot near Rockford. This year there have been 113 officers killed on the job.
It's always difficult for Flanagan and those who love him to keep hearing of such news, Especially when it's local, he said his family begins to worry and starts asking him more questions.
Flanagan said risking his life on the job is a reality. Flanagan said he's not better than the 113 of the law enforcement officials who died this year, and there is no reason to think it couldn't happen to him or a fellow officer.
"Every day I have to put a bullet resistant vest on and a gun on my hip and I don't know if have to use them. It's a big reality check - you have to put something over yourself to protect from bullets going in you every day," Flanagan said.