Thousands attend visitation to honor fallen McHenry County Sheriff's deputy

Residents, law enforcement officials pay respects to Deputy Keltner

Thousands of residents and law enforcement officials from across the region paid their respects to McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner during a visitation Tuesday afternoon.

A line of mourners stretched outside DeFiore Funeral Home in Huntley.

“It’s been really sad and devastating,” family friend Laura Strong said while on a bus leaving the visitation. “I think the community wants to honor someone who dedicated their life to serving the community. ... He was a nice guy. He loved and cared for [his wife] and the family.”

McHenry County Circuit Court Chief Judge James Cowlin said he attended the visitation to show support from the judiciary.

“The judiciary respected him,” Cowlin said. “This is a terrible tragedy for the family. A horrendous tragedy. What can you do other than express your sympathies and say your prayers? The rest is in God’s hands.”

Donna Rothgeb of Gilberts attended the visitation with her husband and teenage granddaughter.

“We were just talking about how this is becoming too often,” she said, adding that she hopes people understand the risks law enforcement professionals take every day. “I can’t help but be moved. I’m so blessed I still have my husband, my children, my grandkids.”

Kane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Pat Gengler said the Illinois chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors helped organize the visitation and funeral with help from the Illinois Law Enforcement 
Alarm System.

Gengler said hundreds of law enforcement officials from across the region have volunteered their time and resources to help the visitation and funeral run smoothly. He expects thousands of police officers, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters from “all over the place” to attend Wednesday’s funeral.

“It’s not surprising,” he said. “This is what happens. This is what everybody does. ... It’s not surprising to see this kind of support.”

Gengler said Gov. J.B. Pritzker stopped by Tuesday evening to pay his respects. State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, introduced a resolution Tuesday to mourn Keltner’s death.

“Deputy Keltner will be remembered as a man who loved his job, his fellow officers, his country, his Cubs and, most importantly, his family,” the resolution reads.

Keltner, 35, of Crystal Lake, was shot and killed Thursday while trying to serve a warrant to a known fugitive in Rockford. He was a McHenry County Sheriff’s deputy and a member of the U.S. Marshals Service Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force.

His wife, Becki Keltner, wrote a letter posted on the Illinois State Police Facebook page. In the letter, she described her husband as a “cop’s cop” and said he loved his family.

“Jake is the love of my life,” she wrote. “We met at Western Illinois University in January 2004 and were inseparable. We married in 2007.”

She also called for an end to hate.

“There are no words to sum up a man who meant so much for me and to so many others. My only wish is to have a world where we stop hating each other,” she wrote. “Lift each other up. It’s the only way to stop this unconscionable madness.”

Gengler said the letter “breaks your heart.”

A formal law enforcement walk-through took place at
6 p.m. Tuesday. Huntley Fire Protection District firefighters hoisted a large American flag onto a ladder outside the facility. Dozens of American flags were set up on the property, and nearby utility poles were adorned with blue and black ribbons, symbolizing the thin blue line.

Carpentersville firefighter Matt Tracy said law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel are all “brothers.”

“I wanted to come out [Tuesday] and pay our respects,” said Tracy, who also serves as a member of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois Honor Guard. “You never want to lose anybody in law enforcement, fire, EMS at all. ... We’re going to keep doing what we do every day and hope that this doesn’t happen, and when it does, be there to respect those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for what they do.”

Donations to the Keltner family can be dropped off or sent to the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, 2200 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock, or DeFiore Funeral Home, 10763 Dundee Road, Huntley. Checks should be made out to Becki Keltner.

Keltner’s funeral

Jacob Keltner’s funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Woodstock North High School, 3000 Raffel Road. Woodstock North will be closed for the service.

Parking at the high school will be for first responders only. Doors will open at 8 a.m., with law enforcement and other first responders receiving priority seating.

An official procession of law enforcement and emergency vehicles will follow the funeral. The public can line the route to support and honor Jacob Keltner. The procession is expected to leave Woodstock North High School about 12:30 p.m. and arrive at DeFiore Funeral Home about 3 p.m.

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