As they were in life – always by each other’s sides – Pontiac Police Officer Casey J. Kohlmeier and his K-9 partner, Draco, were laid to rest together as thousands of mourners and well-wishers paid their respects on Saturday.
“He knew his tasks and wanted to be in the FBI, and wanted to be a supervisor by week two,” said Pontiac Police Chief Jim Woolford at the memorial service. “He had the world by the tail.”
A line began to amass over an hour before the service, held in the Pontiac High School auditorium, began – and some waited as long as three hours – further evidence of just how beloved this local law enforcement duo was throughout the community.
Those in attendance were a mix of police and military personnel from across Illinois and civilians dressed in their Sunday best. Despite the staggering amount of people, few words were exchanged aside from minimal greetings here and there.
Near the auditorium entrace, a slideshow of pictures from throughout Kohlmeier’s life was shown – and no matter what age he was in each photo, that instantly recognizable smile he was known for was plastered across his face.
As the room filled, the sounds of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” filled the air, surrounding those who filed past the open casket.
When the service began, just a handful of lone empty seats were sprinkled amongst the virtually endless sea of community members and law enforcement.
Pastor Jane Bradford of Saunemin United Methodist Church officiated the service, beginning with John 14:19 – “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”
She looked at Kohlmeier’s family and offered them words of comfort and solace.
“I know you are numb and grief-stricken,” she said. “Please know that these words are living. Let them watch over you and strengthen you.”
Shortly thereafter, as she departed the stage, Woolford ascended, recalling Kohlmeier’s early days with the department.
“I was very excited to have him,” he said. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for veterans.”
Woolford went on to talk about Kohlmeier’s LACC ride-alongs and also remarked about the job the pair regularly did on the job.
He also offered heartfelt words about Kohlmeier’s partner, his K-9 unit Draco.
“He didn’t create problems and liked to spend time in cars,” Woolford said. “They helped make Pontiac safer.”
Page 2 of 2 - The local police chief closed by saying Kohlmeier was not just a member of the Pontiac police family, but also a family member of anyone in uniform.”
Before the casket even arrived at the gravesite in Southside Cemetery, crowds had begun to form. Perched above the gravesite, a maple tree, its red leaves like a flaming beacon, broke up the gray skies that dominated for most of the day.
A majority of the public gathered in small groups on the outskirts of the gravesite; while to the left of the grave relatives huddled together, comforting one another. More than 60 officers from around the state arrived with their K-9 units – a testament to the bond shared by these officers.
The haunting echo of “Amazing Grace” performed by the Bagpipes & Drums of the Emerald Society Chicago Police Department permeated every inch of the cemetery, broken only by the forlorn barks of K-9 units, who mourned in their own unique fashion.
As the bagpipes and drums drew to a close, a last call for Officer Kohlmeier and his partner rang out over 911 LivCom.
“All units be advised that XK 103, K-9 officer Casey Kohlmeier, a beloved member of the Pontiac Police Department and Livingston County ProActive Unit, and his K-9 partner Draco, were killed in the line of duty Wednesday, October 30, 2013. XK 103 is now 10-7. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. Rest in peace. LivCom cleared.”