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Motorcycle run raises funds for family of slain Gary police officer

Motorcycles line up for Solidarity Run Gary August 3 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media

Motorcycles line up for the Solidarity Run in Gary on August 3, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 5, 2014 6:23AM



GARY — Teamsters Local 142 showed Sunday that union solidarity knows no boundaries when it comes to helping family.

At least 75 motorcycle enthusiasts brought out their bikes for the second annual Solidarity Run from its Clark Street hall. Last year, the ride, which brought out about 35 riders, brought in money for the union’s philanthropic works, such as Christmas baskets for needy families.

Sunday’s ride would still do that, said Jason Pedroza, who sits on the local’s stewardship council. The other half would be donated to the children of Gary Police Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield: Allie, Rachel, Cheyenne, Katerina and Brady.

Westerfield was shot and killed while on duty on July 6, his 47th birthday. He was a 19-year veteran with the department. Carl Blount has been charged with his murder.

Westerfield’s ex-wife, Dawn Westerfield, flanked daughters Allie and Rachel like a protective mother. Dawn Westerfield would’ve ridden along on the ride that took the group throughout Lake and Porter counties, but she said her bike is down at the moment. Still, they were overwhelmed at the support and said they’re hanging in as best they can.

“I’m honored that people would show up,” said Allie, the family’s de facto spokeswoman. “A lot of people here didn’t know him, so that means a ton.”

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said several of his police officers were among the group and that solidarity is what being an officer is all about.

“You absolutely can’t help but feel for the family; five kids is a lot,” Pedroza said. “He gave his life protecting our union and our hall, so it’s the least we can do for the family. We stand by the Gary (Fraternal Order of Police) and wanted to show our respect.

“I’m proud to serve, and I think all of us are proud to serve the officers.”

Pension Fund Office worker Christina Hernandez, of Crown Point, said another local member, Alex Markowski, worked especially hard to get the run going. She was happy to see the community be involved as well.

“The reverend who gave the invocation (the Rev. Eddie Shields Jr., of The Evening Star Church), we didn’t know him until today when he came,” she said. “We need to make a positive impact in this city, and it is going to start right here.”

John Gill, of Schererville, brought out his new Harley-Davidson for the ride. A Teamster, he could think of no better way to spend a Sunday.

“It doesn’t get any better than raising money for someone who needs it,” Gill said.

Pedroza said it will turn over the proceeds to Gary FOP President Sam Abegg to disburse to the Westerfield family.



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