ELYRIA — Lorain County’s police officers come together once a year in May to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the community, but Monday’s gathering was especially meaningful, coming less than two months after an Elyria police officer was killed.
Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely thanked police departments from across the county and country for their support and kind words since the death of Officer James Kerstetter on March 15.
“You helped us through an extremely difficult time,” Whitely told the gathered officers.
Kerstetter was gunned down while responding to a call on 18th Street about a man who had exposed himself to a neighbor’s child.
Two other Elyria police officers shot and killed his alleged shooter, Ronald Palmer, after they responded to the scene after Kerstetter radioed that he’d been shot.
Elyria Mayor Bill Grace, one of several community leaders who spoke at Monday’s event in Ely Square, said Kerstetter’s death drew the citizens of Elyria together.
“Elyria will never be the same,” he said.
Kerstetter’s name was one of two fallen officers whose names were added to the county’s fallen officer memorial this year. The other was Wellington City Marshal George Brenner, who was shot and killed on July 17, 1883.
Retired Elyria police Officer Al Leiby put together the information to get Brenner on memorials in the county, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., Wellington Police Chief Steve Rollins said as he read of the details of Brenner’s death.
Kerstetter’s name will be added to the Cleveland memorial later this month and to the federal memorial next year.
In total, police officials from eight departments in the county read of the harrowing details of how 15 officers died in the line of duty while an officer laid a single flower before a memorial wreath.
The wreath was placed by Misty and Shelby Kerstetter, two of James Kerstetter’s daughters, during the ceremony.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Greg White, who was once Lorain County prosecutor, said during a speech that all of the fallen officers were deserving of being called heroes, not because they had died, but because of what they chose to do with their lives.
“All believed in and dedicated themselves to the same cause,” he said.
Whitely said he was grateful to Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera for offering to allow Elyria to host this year’s memorial service, which had originally been scheduled to be held in Lorain.
He said he and his officers continue to mourn Kerstetter.
“We’re getting by,” he said. “Everybody remembers Jimmy very well, and they’re not going to forget him ever.”
Lorain County's fallen officers
- ◾George Brenner, Wellington city marshal, July 17, 1883
- ◾Rupert Becker, Amherst night watchman, April 10, 1916
- ◾Fred J. Webber, Lorain patrolman, Dec. 23, 1923
- ◾Charles C. Deal, Lorain patrolman, Nov. 6, 1925
- ◾Franklin J. Strohl, Lorain County Sheriff’s deputy, June 13, 1930
- ◾Howard B. Taft, Elyria patrolman, Aug. 18, 1942
- ◾George Kirk, Lorain patrolman, March 30, 1944
- ◾Edmund G. Smith, Wellington patrolman, May 4, 1957
- ◾Michael J. George, Lorain County Sheriff’s deputy, Jan. 9, 1961
- ◾John P. Palermo, Lorain County Sheriff’s deputy, Jan. 21, 1964
- ◾Robert Woodall, Oberlin patrolman, March 10, 1971
- ◾Francis Smolka, Vermilion patrolman, Oct. 29, 1978
- ◾Kenneth M. Tomaszewski, Lorain County Sheriff’s deputy, July 3, 1979
- ◾Robert Perez, Ohio Highway Patrol trooper, May 15, 2000
- ◾James A. Kerstetter, Elyria patrolman, March 15, 2010
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.