This morning's article:
Police officer's death sparks deep mourning
By RON INGRAM - H&R Staff Writer
- Published online on Wednesday, October 5, 2005 12:47 AM CDT
DECATUR - Robin Vogel's family said she lived for her job as a police officer, Decatur Police Chief Mark Barthelemy told a hushed news conference called Tuesday to discuss the 37-year-old's six-and-a-half year career.
At times choking back tears, Bar;thelemy described Vogel as "energetic, upbeat and spirited." He said her enthusiastic attitude rubbed off on everyone with whom she came into contact.
The third-shift patrol officer also was a field training officer and a cultural diversity officer for the Decatur department.
Vogel died at 11:21 p.m. Monday in Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, from injuries suffered when her squad car was hit broadside by another vehicle at 4:03 a.m. Saturday at Pershing Road and Main Street. The driver of that vehicle, Joshua Meixner, 24, of Cerro Gordo was pronounced dead at the scene.
Barthelemy said Vogel "decided long ago to donate organs if anything ever happened to her. Her wishes were honored. I don't know which organs were suitable."
Vogel was divorced. She leaves a 15-year-old son. She had been residing in Decatur after living for many years in Springfield, the chief said.
An escort of 10 Decatur squad cars filled with fellow officers returned Vogel's body to Decatur early Tuesday as Macon County sheriff's deputies took over patrol duties in the community to free officers for the tribute.
Vogel's accident created an outpouring of compassion among area police officers, Barthelemy said. While she was hospitalized, Champaign officers opened their homes to her family, brought food to the hospital and provided coins for vending machines, he said.
As the Decatur squad cars escorted her home, Champaign, Urbana and University of Illinois police officers parked their cars at intersections along the route and stood saluting as the cortege passed about 2 a.m., Barthelemy said. At intervals along Interstate 72, Illinois State Police, Champaign County sheriff's deputies and Monticello police officers added their salutes, he said.
Decatur Mayor Paul Osborne said the city staff and residents of Decatur express their condolences to Vogel's family.
"It's a shock to lose an officer in circumstances like this," Osborne said. "This is one reason we appreciate the police department and the responsibilities (the officers) have."
Deputy Police Chief David Slade said while police department members mourn Vogel, they realize there is a family in Cerro Gordo that also mourns a loss.
"We grieve with them, too," Slade said.
Vogel's death is the first of an on-duty officer since 1912 when an officer was murdered while on patrol at Short and Cerro Gordo streets near the rail yards, Barthelemy said.
"Each and every time we swear in a class of officers, we tell the recruits about the unseemly nature of the things officers see while on the job, of the ungodly dangers that they will face while working to protect and serve the residents of this community," Barthelemy said. "Yet, it is times like this, when those dangers become a reality, and we truly realize that there's no way to brace for the feelings of hurt and anger, powerlessness and sadness that come with the loss of an officer."
Barthelemy declined to discuss whether Vogel was wearing her seat belt at the time of the accident, saying he wanted to wait for the results of the Illinois State Police investigation into the crash. He said the department's policy is for all officers to wear seat belts as required by state law.
Initial state police reports indicated Vogel was not wearing a seat belt.
Meixner's car was southbound at a high rate of speed on Main Street when it ran the red light at Pershing Road and struck Vogel's westbound squad car in the passenger side as she pulled into the intersection, state police said.
Debris from the crash was spread over more than a block-long area, Barthelemy said. After impact, the two vehicles traveled from the north side of the intersection south and came to rest in front of Tater's Restaurant, he said.
The Decatur Police Department is conducting a parallel investigation because it does not know when the state police will complete the independent review, which can sometimes be delayed because of other pressing needs, Barthelemy said. Interviewing witnesses again may cause someone to remember or mention something that was forgotten when state troopers did their interviews, he said.
DRIVERS: Move over or slow down for stopped law enforcement or public safety vehicles.
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