Hundreds of officers honor state trooper killed in wrong-way crash
Hundreds of uniformed police officers honored the life of Illinois State Police trooper Gerald Ellis, who was killed by a wrong-way driver last week in the line of duty.
Officers from the Chicago area and across the country formed an unbroken line so long it took 15 minutes for them all to enter the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, where Ellis' body was on display.
Troopers from Illinois State Police District 15 -- the district where Ellis served on the drug task force unit -- led the way, each trooper holding their flat-brimmed brown hat in their left hands as they solemnly marched. Behind them were officers from suburban county sheriff's offices as well as municipal police departments including Waukegan, Gurnee, Hawthorn Woods and others.
After them was a cadre of state troopers in all-green uniforms and white gloves. Near the end of the procession were officers from as far away as Indiana, Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana.
"It helps to show that we're all a family here," state police spokeswoman Sgt. Jacqueline Cepeda said. "We're all over the country and we support each other during difficult times. And not only each other, but the family of every fallen officer."
The area outside the performing arts center was lined with dozens of American flags. The largest flag of all was strung between the ladders of two fire trucks by the entrance to the CLC parking lot.
The sight of uniformed officers in mourning has become an all-too-frequent occurrence of late. On March 12, hundreds gathered at a Huntley funeral home to remember McHenry County sheriff's deputy Jacob Ketner, who was shot and killed while trying to serve an arrest warrant at a hotel in Rockford as part of a U.S. Marshals team.
The Illinois State Police have lost three troopers already in 2019. In January, Christopher Lambert, 34, was killed while responding to a traffic crash on the Tri-State Tollway near Northbrook. Brooke Jones-Story, 34, was hit by a semitrailer truck and died last Thursday in Freeport while inspecting a truck she had pulled to the shoulder.
"Everyone is mourning the loss of all the officers," Cepeda said. "They're remaining strong to do everything they have to do to honor and to support everyone during this difficult time. And to stay strong to do their job, which they will do."
Ellis, 36, was traveling home to Antioch early Saturday morning in his squad car on I-94 when a wrong-way driver struck him head-on. The driver, Dan Davies, 44, of Calumet City, also died from the crash.
Ellis' funeral will be at CLC Friday morning.
Donations to the Ellis family can be made by visiting the Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation website at www.isphf.org/donations.