Slain officer remembered with cross, ceremony where he died
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com July 16, 2014 11:02PM
Joe Hamer of the Indiana State FOP places a rose at the bottom of a memorial erected on 26th street in Gary on July 16, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 17, 2014 6:04PM
GARY — A simple white cross emblazoned with officer Jeffrey Westerfield’s name and badge number marks the spot where he was gunned down in the early morning hours of July 6.
More than 20 officers from Gary, Lake County and other departments gathered with Westerfield’s ex-wife, Dawn Westerfield, and three of his daughters Wednesday afternoon to honor his sacrifice. Westerfield, 47, was shot to death in his police cruiser while responding to a domestic disturbance call near 26th Avenue and Van Buren Place.
Westerfield was buried Monday following a funeral at the Genesis Convention Center that attracted hundreds of police officers from across the state and nation.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich addressed the crowd.
“Just several days ago we were all over this street where this tragic event occurred,” Buncich said. “He made the ultimate sacrifice and his family has lost a father and a loved one. But we will never forget him.”
Lake County is spearheading the investigation into Westerfield’s death, and a suspect has been in custody for more than a week. Officers from many departments combed the area for evidence in the days after the shooting.
Buncich later said there were no new details to release about the investigation or when someone might be charged. He said police have received several tips since announcing a $10,000 reward last week, and police are investigating every one of them.
“We’re making sure everything is done right,” Buncich said.
Gary Police Cmdr. Michael Jackson, Westerfield’s supervisor, had to pause midway through his recollection when he was overcome with emotion. Later, he talked about the 28 years he had known Westerfield.
“He served as a correctional officer when he was first at the department,” Jackson said. “Once he became a full-time officer I would ride along with him. Then I became his supervisor as commander of the patrol division.
“It’s just sad and it doesn’t make any sense. He was a laid-back guy. Nothing got him riled up. He was the nicest guy you could meet.”
Joe Hamer, memorial/critical incident chairman for the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, led a prayer urging everyone to keep the family in their thoughts, as well as the investigators on the case and the safety of all officers.
The short ceremony was capped with a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace.”