Metro-East News

Wife of slain Illinois State trooper tells church family to ‘love hard and pray harder’

Life Community Church remembers member Nick Hopkins

Life Community Church remembered Nick Hopkins, an Illinois State Police trooper who was killed on duty Friday. The pastor said Hopkins was always helping others.
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Life Community Church remembered Nick Hopkins, an Illinois State Police trooper who was killed on duty Friday. The pastor said Hopkins was always helping others.

On the first Sunday since her husband’s death, Whitney Hopkins reminded her church family of the words slain Illinois State Police Trooper Nicholas Hopkins lived by.

“You can never do kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it can be too late,” she said in a recorded message to the congregation of Life Community Church.

Approximately 400 people gathered at Metter Park in Columbia for the service, spreading out lawn chairs and blankets as they waited to hear Pastor Jamey Bridges’ sermon. They came prepared with umbrellas on the cloudy morning.

Hopkins was shot Friday morning while serving a search warrant at a residence in the 1400 block of North 42nd Street in East St. Louis. He died Friday afternoon at a St. Louis hospital. The 33-year-old was a member of the State Police SWAT team.

The man who is accused of killing him, Christopher R. Grant, 45, was charged with first-degree murder in Hopkins’ death Saturday. He is being held in the St. Clair County Jail. His bail was set at $5 million.

At the start of the sermon, Bridges held up an ISP patch Hopkins had given him in October — one he keeps in his office.

“I look at this a little differently now,” Bridges said during his sermon. “I look at my kids a little differently now. When time is standing still, we see things from a different perspective and it puts things into perspective.”

Bridges led the congregation in prayer as many grieving members cried. The sermon focused on how to get through times of tragedy together.

“For many that are here today, this is a reminder of how fragile life is,” he said.

Nick Hopkins
Illinois State Police officer Nicholas Hopkins, a 2004 graduate of Waterloo High School, died from gunshot wounds sustained while executing a search warrant in East St. Louis Friday morning. Hopkins, 33, was married with three children. Provided

Hopkins graduated from Waterloo High School in the class of 2004 and, later, from McKendree University in Lebanon. He and Whitney Hopkins have three children and would have celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary on Thursday, Aug. 29.

Bridges described Hopkins as someone who was constantly offering to help other people, saying he has “never met someone more disciplined than Nick Hopkins.” He told the story of how Hopkins had offered to find better security for the church, and how he had offered to fix Bridges’ fence when he saw it had a problem.

“Nick lived his life to when you walked away from him, you want to be a better person,” he said.

On Saturday, Bridges had asked Hopkins’ wife to send him a text message that he could read to the congregation before a moment of silence. Instead, she sent a voice recording to him of a statement she’d written for the church.

“Nick Hopkins was the most incredible person. He was a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend, a carpenter, a mentor, an ISP SWAT teammate and a brother to all,” she began.

Whitney spoke about how much their 4-year-old twins and and nearly 1-year-old daughter loved him.

“I can’t even put into words how big his heart was,” she said through tears. “In this moment of silence, I just want to ask you all to close your eyes, think of your families, hold them tight, love them hard and pray harder.”

As rain started to fall on the congregation, Bridges ended the sermon by telling people not to forget that life is short and to remember to love one another.

“Never forget the impact or influence of Nick Hopkins’ life.”

Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.