Hundreds of family members, friends, members of the community and fellow police officers from across the region turned out Thursday to honor a Chester police officer killed in a crash during a pursuit.
The young officer, James Brockmeyer, was in pursuit of a suspect Friday night when his squad car crashed on Palestine Road north of Chester.
A private family funeral began at 8 a.m. Thursday. A public service began at 10 a.m. at Chester High School.
After the service at the school, officers loaded Brockmeyer’s casket, draped in an American flag, into a hearse as a bagpiper played. The hearse then began leading a massive procession, winding more than 20 miles through and around Chester.
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Representatives from several dozen police agencies were on hand for the services. Most were from the southwestern Illinois region, but there also were some from the Chicago area and from beyond Illinois.
Many of them wore blue and black armbands — the familiar memorial for the death of a police officer. A bagpiper played hymns as they gathered at the school.
Also in attendance was Elizabeth Snyder, whose husband, Blake Snyder, a St. Louis County officer, was killed recently in the line of duty.
Hundreds of American flags lined State Street along the motorcade’s route to the cemetery. Blue and black ribbons were tied to every available pole and sign. The front of the Randolph County Courthouse was draped with blue and black bunting.
Massive American flags were displayed at three points along the route. The first was hung from a crane above Chester High School. The second was hoisted to the tops of Sparta Fire Department trucks parked at Chester’s downtown firehouse. A third waved above Palestine Road near the cemetery entrance, strung between the ladders of Marissa Fire Department trucks.
Here and there along the route, families and neighbors gathered with lawn chairs to watch the procession.
Just outside Chester on Palestine Road, a memorial had been erected at the scene of the crash that claimed Brockmeyer’s life.
The colorful memorial stood just steps away from where Brockmeyer’s squad car came to rest. Spray paint from the crash investigation was still clearly visible, and shattered glass still littered the ditch.
At the high school, a statue of the school’s mascot, a yellow jacket, wore a blue and black armband, and carried a firefighter’s helmet. In addition to being a police officer, Brockmeyer was a volunteer firefighter.
A Chester squad car, draped in blue and black, was parked outside the school.
The driver who Brockmeyer was chasing, Jason M. Stoker, 34, of Chester, was arrested in the St. Louis area Tuesday and remained in custody there as of Thursday.
Brockmeyer will be laid to rest at St. John’s Lutheran cemetery on Palestine Road — the same road where the crash happened.
Brockmeyer, 22, joined the Chester Police Department just 10 months ago. A multisport athlete and 2012 graduate of Chester High School, Brockmeyer previously worked in the city’s Gas Department.
Chester schools closed early Wednesday and were not in session Thursday.
Return to BND.com for updates from the funeral.