Dozens Attend Officer's Vigil; His Death Now Is Considered Murder
Nearly a hundred people braved the Monday night chill to gather for a candlelight vigil at the church where Rockford Police Officer Jaimie Cox lost his life -- an event now being called murder.
Rev. Matthew Johnson, senior minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church, set the tone for the evening.
“I hope that tonight’s prayers will allow us all to grieve and express our care and sympathy and recommit us to this work of building this world in the memory of Officer Cox and all those who give their time and their energy and sometimes, tragically but heroically, their lives,” he said.
Clergy from several denominations offered prayers, condolences, and words of encouragement to work to end violence in Rockford and elsewhere.
Rabbi Binah Wing, of Temple Beth-El, prayed both in Hebrew and in English.
“May the One who causes peace to reign in the high heavens let peace descend on us and all the world. Amen.”
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara expressed grief for himself and for the City of Rockford and pledged to work for a peaceful city.
Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz completed the results of the autopsies and released Cox's body, which was transported Monday night in a procession of law-enforcement vehicles to Fitzgerald Funeral Home on South Mulford Road.
Cox apparently died as the result of blunt force trauma injuries believed caused when the pickup truck driven by 49-year-old Eddie Patterson slammed into a tree on the property of the Unitarian Universalist Church in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
According to a news release from the Rockford Police Department, Cox's death is now considered a murder.
Patterson died as the result of gunshot wounds apparently fired by Cox, and his body suffered injuries from the vehicle crash as well. The Winnebago Boone County Integrity Task Force is investigating the use of force in this incident, according to the police statement.
McNamara announced that flags at city facilities will fly at at half staff all week, and blue lights will be displayed at City Hall and the Morgan Street Bridge in honor of Cox.
"I am saddened by Officer Cox’s death, but I am also angry," McNamara said in a news release. "Angry that we continue to struggle with violence in our community. Angry that our residents don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods. And, I am most angered by those who think they can terrorize our community by harming our most dedicated and bravest young people. This must stop."
The mayor also emphasized that no cuts have been made to the police budget, and the city is working to bring the Police Department up to its authorized strength of 297 officers.
According to information released by the department, Officer Cox stopped a car in the area of East State Street and Dawn Avenue shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday. A short time later, Cox called in on his police radio, stating that he needed assistance.
Officers responded to the area and found a single-vehicle crash on the property of Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., approximately two blocks north of the initial stop and just west of the back entrance to Rockford University. Officers found a dead man, later identified as Patterson, inside the crashed pickup truck.
They also found Cox, who was critically injured, at the scene of the crash and immediately began administering first aid. Officers transported Cox to OSF St. Anthony Medical Center, where he died as a result of his injuries. His body was then transported to the Winnebago County Coroner’s Office under police escort.
Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea provided an update on the investigation at a news conference Sunday afternoon.
"We know many of you are asking what you can do," O'Shea said. "Continue supporting us. Pray for Jaimie. Pray for his wife. Pray for his family. And pray for us as we get through this difficult time."
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner added his condolences in a statement issued Sunday afternoon. “We are deeply saddened by the death of Officer Jaimie Cox,” Rauner said. “He paid the ultimate price while working to keep our communities safe. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as they find a way to cope with this tragic loss.”
Cox joined the department in December 2016. He was a graduate of Hononegah High School and had previously worked for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division.
Cox is the seventh Rockford Police officer to be killed in the line of duty. The other six were killed by gunfire.
Visitation for Officer Cox will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at First Free Evangelical Church, 2223 N. Mulford Road, with a law-enforcement walk-through at 6 p.m.
A police funeral will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the church.