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Photo by Jason White
Alton Police Department Chaplain the Rev. Marc Lane, left, and Police Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons pray at the National Police Week Memorial Service Friday in the Alton Law Enforcement Center Courtroom. A memorial wreath will be on display at the police department until May 17.
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Photo by Jason White
The Calvary Baptist Church choir performed “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and “Amazing Grace.”
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Photo by Jason White
Retired Illinois State Police Lt. Chris Tracy spoke about fallen Trooper Kyle Deatherage.
ALTON — Retired Illinois State Police Lt. Chris Tracy recalls the last day he saw Trooper Kyle Deatherage alive.
On Nov. 26, 2012, Tracy was driving on Interstate 55 to a training session at the police academy in Springfield when he passed a trooper on the side of the highway looking for speeders. Tracy waved to him as he drove by.
Hours later, Tracy and fellow police officers returned to a horrific scene. A tractor-trailer struck and killed Deatherage, a 32-year-old father of two, while he was talking to a motorist he pulled over.
When Tracy arrived he scanned the area for Deatherage, who he trained as a Madison County Sheriff’s Department recruit, hoping the information on his death was wrong.
“All I saw were pieces of Kyle’s uniform strewn around on the ground,” Tracy said. “In all my career, I’ve never seen a police officer’s uniform in that condition.”
Tracy was the leader of the South Honor Guard, which coordinates funerals and services for deceased active and retired State Police personnel. He said Deatherage’s law enforcement comrades focused on helping his family cope with the tragedy.
“That will be emblazoned in their minds, their hearts, their souls, forever,” Tracy said.
After the visitation, Tracy recalled removing decorations from Deatherage’s carefully reassembled uniform and putting them in a bag for his family.
“I told Kyle I would see him later and to take it easy, and we had the watch from here,” Tracy said.
Tracy was months away from wrapping up a 25-year career in law enforcement when Trooper James Sauter was killed on March 29, 2013, after a tractor-trailer hit his vehicle on the Tri-State Tollway in the Chicago area.
Until those two incidents, Tracy had not dealt with deaths in the line of duty during his work for the honor guard.
“It was a defeat; it was a loss for police throughout the country,” he said. “Police officers are trained to win; police officers are trained to come home at all costs.”
Tracy said he took solace in the fact that both officers were Christians, who also are “wired to make it home.”
“For those of us who believe, we take solace in the fact that Kyle and James had a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” he said.
Tracy was among the speakers at the National Police Week Memorial Service Friday in the Alton Law Enforcement Center Courtroom. National Police Week, started by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 when he proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day, is May 11-17 this year.
Alton Police Department Chaplain the Rev. Marc Lane, a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, presented a wreath that will be on display at the police department until May 17. Lane said the Los Angeles Police Department’s motto, “to protect and to serve,” has a religious parallel.
“God called officers to stand in the gap for protection and to serve those in need,” he said. “God’s plan is the ultimate protection.”
Alton Mayor Brant Walker praised the police department’s crime reduction accomplishments since he took office a year ago. Walker read a proclamation for National Police Week and encouraged residents to recognize officers’ sacrifices.
“Our police department is absolutely outstanding,” Walker said.
Police Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons, who also took office last May, said he has been proud to serve Alton over the past year.
“Each day you put the safety and protection of others ahead of your own,” Simmons said. “It’s my hope we can return home safely each day as we stand on the thin blue line.”