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State

Massive funeral procession honors Rockford police officer

When it came time to line up their law enforcement vehicles for Officer Jaimie Cox’s funeral procession, it took more than half an hour for all the cars to empty the church parking lot Saturday.

A ceremony and funeral procession was held for the Rockford police officer who died on-duty Nov. 5, and hundreds gathered at First Free Rockford church to honor his life, including several hundred law enforcement officers from across the state and country, which led to the long procession.

The hourlong service was open to the public, but at the request of Cox’s family not to media coverage. The family also requested that final arrangements for Cox’s burial remain private.

After the ceremony within the church, those in attendance gathered outside in freezing temperatures to witness the start of Cox’s funeral procession.

Cox, 30, died Nov. 5 during a traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle, Eddie Patterson Jr., 49, also was killed. Patterson died of gunshot wounds, and Cox suffered fatal blunt force trauma.

Several officers wept and embraced as Cox’s coffin was placed in a hearse in front of the church.

Naperville resident Jeremy Arnold, a former classmate of Cox’s at Northern Illinois University, attended the service.

Arnold, 38, said Cox led the triathlon club when they were students there. Arnold said that once during a race, his legs cramped, which caused him to slow down significantly. Cox and another teammate went back to track Arnold down and “ran him to the finish.”

“He was always willing to go the extra mile,” Arnold said.

Nicole Johnson, a 28-year-old Rockford resident, watched the lights flash on the dozens of police vehicles parked in the lot at First Free Church as they prepared for the procession.

Tears welled in her eyes as Johnson said her husband, Steven, was sworn into the Rockford force in December along with Cox. Johnson said her husband and Cox were “really close” friends.

“I met [Jaimie] at the swearing-in ceremony,” Johnson said. “He was really excited to make a difference in his community.”

Johnson’s husband was part of the procession, she said. She said he was profoundly affected by Cox’s sudden death.

“Lots of officers want to be like him,” Johnson said. “Now every time they go out there, they’ll keep him in his memories and work to make him proud.”

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©2017 the Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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