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UPDATED 03/12/12 5:56 p.m.
HAMMOND, Ind. (CBS) — Loved ones gathered Monday to remember a 25-year-old Lake County, Ind., correctional officer, who was killed instantly when a vehicle slammed into her last week.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, friends, family members and colleagues from the Lake County Sheriff’s office turned out at the First Baptist Church, at 473 Sibley St. in Hammond, Ind., to remember Officer Britney Meux, who was killed in the crash last Tuesday.
Mourners walked into the church one by one to pay respects.
Those closest to Meux described the funeral Monday as a celebration of her life. She was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the mother of a 7-month old daughter, Savannah.
The program for the funeral included a letter from Meux’s mother. It reads in part, “You left a part of you here, and I promise to love her with all of my heart and keep remind of her of who, and how, you were.”
“Britney smiled all the time, and she made everybody just feel like everything was OK. She bonded with everyone. She motivated everyone,” said Meux’s friend, Niecey Gore. “When officers came to the jail that were new, she welcomed everyone and made them feel welcome. Anything she could do for anyone, she did that.”
Mary Cartwright attended church with Meux.
“She was a member of my church, and she was a wonderful young lady,” Meux said. “She was very energetic. She was a beautiful, beautiful young lady; a wonderful mom; a very nice person. She would help anybody.”
Meux’s friend Markita Grigsby said she’d miss her friend’s smile the most.
“She could always brighten up a room. She could always, when someone was down, she could lift your spirits,” Grigsby said.
Those who knew Meux as a former Marine and well-respected corrections officer saluted her casket as it was carried out of the church after the funeral service.
“She was a fun-loving woman,” colleague Tim Mummery said. “She was strong. She did her job well. She knew what she was doing. You could always trust her to do the right thing.”
Scott McDaniel of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said much of the law enforcement community in Indiana – and beyond – had turned out to pay their respects.
“The family in particular will have a very long time,” McDaniel said. “This isn’t something they’re ever going to forget, and we want to make sure that they understand that not just the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and agencies around here, but the entire state, as well as – there are officers that have come in from New York state and Pennsylvania to pay tribute, so when we lose one of our own in the law enforcement profession, it affects us all.”
A procession of dozens of police cars and other vehicles led a hearse carrying Meux’s body to Ridgelawn Cemetery, stopping by the Lake County Government complex on the way. Hundreds of law enforcement officers and firefighters stood along the streets to salute the hearse and pay their final respects during the funeral procession.
“It’s a tribute to her life. And that’s what Britney deserves. She deserves all of this. She needs to see just how much she was loved and how much she is loved and for Savannah, her daughter, to see how much she is loved; to leave a legacy for her,” Gore said.
Meux was killed last Tuesday night as she and three co-workers trained and jogged around the Lake County Government Complex in Crown Point. The driver left the scene after barreling his sport-utility vehicle barreled into Meux and the other three officers.
The three other officers — David Murchek, 26; Latasha Johnson, 34; and Delano Scaife, 22 — were seriously injured in the crash. Scaife was so badly injured, he was airlifted to a hospital in Indianapolis, where he underwent surgery Wednesday morning. Johnson suffered a broken arm and possible internal injuries and was released from Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point. Murchek was released from the same hospital on Wednesday.
Scaife was still hospitalized in Indianapolis on Monday. His uncle, Samuel, said “he’s very, very, very hurt. He really wanted to be here today. … It’s been really devastating. He prayed for her that night with the chaplain. You know, they were very close, very good friends, you know, fellow officers.”
On Friday afternoon, Lake County, Ind., prosecutors charged suspect Jason Cozmanoff, a 42-year-old unemployed bricklayer who on record has a 2009 driving while intoxicated conviction. There is no word yet as to whether alcohol played a role in the fatal crash.