A community said goodbye Thursday to an “eager and enthusiastic” young police officer.
Hundreds of family members, friends, townsfolk and fellow police officers from all corners of the state turned out to honor James Irwin Brockmeyer, a Chester police officer killed in a crash Oct. 28 during a pursuit.
The 22-year-old officer was chasing a suspect that night when his squad car crashed on Palestine Road north of Chester.
A private family funeral was held at 8 a.m. Thursday, followed by a public service at 10 a.m. at Chester High School.
James as a person was pleasant and fun to be around. That enthusiasm and passion ... had a way of motivating those around him, and I saw it with my own eyes.
Chester Police Chief Ryan Coffey
Ryan Coffey, Chester’s chief of police, described Brockmeyer as a dedicated, hardworking rookie officer who inspired his colleagues.
“James’s dedication was evident even before we hired him,” Coffey said during the funeral. “James was eager and enthusiastic about the profession, showing a particular interest in drug enforcement activities. But that wasn’t all. James inserted himself in nearly every aspect of our department’s operations. James didn’t seem to believe in the traditional eight-hour shift. The 40-hour work week evidently wasn’t the way James was programmed.”
Coffey added that Brockmeyer couldn’t stay away from the police station, even coming in to take care of small tasks in his off time.
“James as a person was pleasant and fun to be around. That enthusiasm and passion ... had a way of motivating those around him, and I saw it with my own eyes,” Coffey said. “I know I speak for my entire staff when I say that James, not just the hard worker but the young man, will be missed terribly.”
Then, Coffey addressed Brockmeyer’s family: “You are and always will be a member of the Chester police family,” he said. “You will forever be connected to us. On that you have my word.”
After the service at the school, officers loaded Brockmeyer’s casket, draped in an American flag, into a hearse as a bagpiper played. A massive procession followed, winding more than 20 miles through and around Chester.
Hundreds of officers from several dozen police agencies attended the services. Most were from the southwestern Illinois region, but there also were some from the Chicago area and from beyond Illinois.
Also in attendance was Elizabeth Snyder, whose husband, Blake Snyder, a St. Louis County officer, was killed recently in the line of duty.
You are and always will be a member of the Chester police family. You will forever be connected to us. On that you have my word.
Chester Police Chief Ryan Coffee to James Brockmeyer’s family
Hundreds of American flags lined State and Swanwick streets 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. Mourning wreaths were affixed to some squad cars and fire trucks.
Massive American flags were displayed at, at least three points along the route. The first was hung from a crane above Chester High School. The second was hoisted to the tops of Perryville 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. School was canceled Thursday in Chester.
Just outside town on Palestine Road, a memorial had been erected at the scene of the crash that claimed Brockmeyer’s life.
The colorful memorial, which contained crosses, balloons, flowers, flags, a duck decoy and deer antlers, was just steps away from where Brockmeyer’s squad car came to rest following the crash Oct. 28.
Spray paint from the crash investigation was still clearly visible at the scene, 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 was laid to rest at St. John’s Lutheran cemetery on Palestine Road — little more than a mile south of where the crash occurred.
Brockmeyer joined the Chester Police Department in January. He was a multi-sport athlete who graduated from Chester High School in 2012.