Courthouse shooting victims honored in annual ceremony

NOW: Courthouse shooting victims honored in annual ceremony
ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -

Hundreds gathered in St. Joe Thursday to honor Berrien County’s fallen law enforcement officers, including Joe Zangaro and Ron Kienzle.

“There’s a lot of names on that wall – there’s seven of them that I know,” said Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey. “So, you know, there’s not a day that goes by that the people in uniform here and the families don’t think about the ones that we’ve lost.”

Gathered around a memorial that sits on Lake Boulevard in St. Joe, hundreds paid tribute to the county’s law enforcement officers who have died while serving.

“I get reminded every day of Joe and Ron,” said Rick Lull, a Berrien County Court Security Supervisor. “But today, it really brought it back.”

The annual event happens during National Police Week.

“It’s to support the [families], to keep the memories of those who were killed or died in the line of duty,” said Berrien Springs Officer Rick Smiedendorf, who has organized the event for the last 25+ years. “[The event is held] to keep that memory alive.”

Dozens of law enforcement officers attended the event, lining their police cars on the street and standing in rows next to the memorial.

“On the day they went to work it was just like any other shift,” said Bailey, “but something happened.”

Seventeen officers who served Berrien County throughout the last century were honored Thursday, as well as two officers who were born in the county but died while working elsewhere.

“I want the community to support our law enforcement officers, our first responders, all of them,” said Julie Harner, who attended the event.

A rifle salute marked the occasion, followed by a trumpet and bagpipe player.

Each deceased officer’s name was read aloud, and family, friends, or law enforcement members walked a flower up to the memorial and laid it on top of the stone.

Berrien County Court Security Supervisor Joe Zangaro and court officer Ron Kienzle – who were shot and killed by an inmate in a shooting at the courthouse on July 11, 2016 – were among the 19 honored.

“I think the support of everybody here gives [their families] a little bit of peace,” said Bailey. “They still have a ways to go. They’re going to mourn their loved ones for the rest of their life, but we all know that time heals.”

Bailey added, “We will continue to pray and heal, but never forget.”

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