Updated 04/03/13 – 1:12 p.m.
PALOS HEIGHTS, Ill. (CBS) — Hundreds of police officers packed into a Palos Heights church on Tuesday for the funeral of Trooper James Sauter, who was killed last week when a semi-trailer truck slammed into his patrol car.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, hours before Sauter’s funeral at Moraine Valley Church in Palos Heights, police officers from as far away as Alaska showed up at the church to honor a fallen officer. Hundreds of squad cars from various law enforcement agencies filled the parking lots surrounding the church.
“Jim’s spirit and the person that he was touched so many of us,” said Illinois State Police Trooper Annamarie Ragan. “Even though he was a giant of a man, a big strapping guy, he had a smile that was the size of Mount Rushmore. It was very difficult to not find yourself smiling after being with him for just a few moments.”
Sauter’s fellow troopers called him a “road dog,” an honorary nickname for troopers who loved working patrol
“For us, that’s quite a compliment. For a guy who wants to be a road dog, that’s a compliment when a guy gets called that; a guy who likes working the street,” said Sauter’s commanding officer, State Police Cmdr. Joe Perez.
Trooper Mark Karczewski was Sauter’s fishing buddy.
“With Jim, patrol was where he wanted to be, and I think that was his best fit. I think he was a people person,” he said.
Perez said people often thanked Sauter after he gave them a ticket, and promised to do better.
“He was the epitome of a trooper; big, strong, strapping boy. He is the kind of man that you wanted showing up if your own family needed assistance on the side of the road,” he said. “The kind of guy he got thanked – and I heard it and saw it more than once – he got thanked by people when they got a ticket. You know, that’s the kind of personality he had, the way he dealt with the public.”