SPRINGFIELD -- On a chilly, cloudy and somber day, police officers from across the state gathered on the Illinois Capitol lawn Thursday to remember fallen officers including state trooper James Sauter of Vernon Hills.
"I grieve for the families because your pain is far greater than anything we will ever experience," said Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. "Every day when that police officer goes out, you really never know if you're going to see them again."
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Sauter was killed in the line of duty last year when a truck struck his patrol car while he was parked on the shoulder of the Tri-State Tollway near Willow Road.
His wife, Elizabeth, and his parents and brother were honored Thursday with a plaque that read: "In Memory of Trooper James Sauter, Illinois State Police, End of Watch 03/28/2013, Presented May 01, 2014."
They stood on the Capitol steps surrounded by officers in formal uniforms as Sauter was memorialized. Earlier, Sauter's name had been etched into the state police memorial outside the Capitol building.
Sauter's family was greeted by hundreds of police officers, along with embraces from Topinka, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and Secretary of State Jesse White.
"We mourn the loss of officers like James Sauter who at 28 had a life ahead of him," Topinka said. "He was a rising star with the Illinois State Police and earned a medal for heroism for saving a woman's life. And was married to the love of his life, Elizabeth. I'm so sorry Elizabeth, I'm so sorry."
The day's memorial included a procession of police cars and motorcycles, hundreds of officers in uniform marching and a 21-gun salute, with a backdrop of the bagpipes of the Emerald Society of Chicago.
After the memorial, family members asked for privacy and did not comment on the event.
Also honored on the Capitol lawn were Officer Casey Kohlmeier from Pontiac and Investigator Cuauhtémoc Estrada form the Cook County Department of Corrections, who also died in 2013.
"People like us are often called public servants, but it's people like the folks we are remembering here today that are true public servants," Simon said. "We don't stand anywhere close to the sacrifice that's made by officers on a daily basis."