A deeply loved and respected police officer with the Pontiac Police Department in Illinois was killed, along with his K-9 partner, Draco, in a tragic crash on Interstate 55.
Officer Casey J. Kohlmeier was parked near the center of the median shortly before midnight on Oct. 30, when he was struck by another vehicle, Police Chief James Woolford said.
Casey Kohlmeier was 29 years old and had been with the department for more than six years. Officer Kohlmeier was also veteran of the United States Air Force.
“This is a hole we can’t fill,” Woolford said emotionally, as his voice cracked and his eyes filled with tears.
Chief Woolford told NBC Chicago that Pontiac hadn’t lost an officer in the line of duty for at least 19 years. Pontiac is located about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, between Joliet and Bloomington.
Illinois State Police announced on Nov. 1 that Jason C. Collins, 33, of Columbia, S.C., was formally charged with Aggravated DUI and Reckless Homicide by the Livingston County State’s Attorney’s office on Thursday.
The charges alleged that Collins was driving a pick-up truck on northbound Interstate 55 at Mile 201 when he left the roadway and struck Officer Casey Kohlmeier’s Department SUV in the median.
Livingston County prosecutors said Collins admitted to drinking at a bar in Bloomington before the crash. Surveillance video showed he was at the bar for five hours. A blood test performed at the hospital showed Collins’ blood alcohol level was above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Collins told police he fell asleep behind the wheel and awoke right before the crash.
His bond was set at $100,000 and he was booked into the Livingston County Jail.
A TRIBUTE TO A MILITARY VETERAN AND A LIFE OF SERVICE
Officer Kohlmeier served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2006 at Offut Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb. While in the service, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Training Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Air Force BMT Honor Graduate Ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon with device, NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Unit Award, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He was awarded Airman of the Year in 2005. He was buried with full military honors.
His beloved K-9, Draco, was buried with him to be by his side forever.
Officer Kohlmeier had been with the Pontiac Police Department K-9 Unit since January of 2007. He received his Training Certificate as Detective and was also part of the Livingston County Proactive Unit.
He had just received his pilot’s license in 2012.
He was a Board Member of the Boys & Girls Club of Livingston County and Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association. He was also a member of the Saunemin Methodist Church.
Casey was a member of the Pontiac Township High School graduating class of 2002. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from DeVry University in the Technical Management Program.
He is survived by his parents, two brothers, two sisters and many friends and loved ones — in particular, his girlfriend, Leslie Alappattu of Bloomington, Ill.
MORE THAN A THOUSAND OFFICERS, FAMILY, FRIENDS PAY THEIR RESPECTS
On Nov. 2, more than a thousand officers, family and friends came to Pontiac Township High School Auditorium to pay their respects to Officer Kohlmeier at a visitation service starting at 8 a.m., followed by funeral services at noon.
Officers from all over the country came to pay their tributes to Casey Kohlmeier one last time. The hundreds of officers present did a walk around the school auditorium in his honor. Phone calls from as far away as Canada were received, expressing condolences.
“This is probably the largest turnout that Livingston County has ever seen,” said Livingston County Chief Deputy Tony Childress.
The burial at Pontiac Southside Cemetery with full military honors was delayed several hours due to a high volume of guests at the visitation who had traveled many miles to see the officer they knew only through the loving tributes of his friends and coworkers.
“This speaks volumes of who Casey Kohlmeier was, and what he meant to us,” said Childress.
“He was always smiling,” said Lindsey Blunier, close friend and former classmate. “He was a joker, he would give you the shirt off his back even if it was his last shirt.”
Major Dan Davis said that Casey had a unique personality which allowed him to show genuine kindness and caring even to strangers and still do the tough work of law enforcement.
“He had a quick wit, loved to make people laugh, and was extremely approachable,” he said. “He was the type of person who, as soon as you met him, you felt like you had known him all your life.”
Childress added, “Though Casey is physically gone, his spirit lives on.”
Davis shared a story that makes us wonder if death is really as final as it seems. He said that Casey had bought a farm house a few years ago and recently sold it to a fellow officer in order to purchase a home closer to town. An outside halogen light at the farm house had not worked for a number of months, but on Saturday — the day of the service for Casey and Draco — that light came back on and has burned brightly ever since.