‘Flowers, letters and overwhelming support’
A time to celebrate, a time to pray.
The nation was shocked earlier this week when two Des Moines-area police officers were ambushed and killed, and hundreds of central Iowans attended a vigil held in their honor Saturday.
“I got a call from our son in Des Moines,” said Lois Charlie Cochran, who attended the event with her husband. The vigil was preceded by a celebration of the upcoming joint fire-police station, approved by voters in August.
Cochran said she was shocked to hear of the shooting.
“I just burst into tears,” she said, adding her daughter-in-law’s friend was married to one of the victims, Des Moines Police Sgt. Tony Beminio.
“What is wrong with our world?” Cochran asked. “There’s such division.”
She said she and her husband came to the event mostly to in remembrance of Beminio and Urbandale Police Officer Justin Martin.
Originally meant solely to celebrate the approval of the fire-police station, Marshalltown Firefighter-Emergency Medical Technician Nate White said he was impressed by the crowd gathered that afternoon.
“I think it’s great, it shows how the community can come together,” he said. White and Marshalltown Police Officer Casee Veren had the idea to celebrate the vote about six weeks ago. Then tragedy struck.
“I want to thank the community… for the outpouring of support,” she said. “It’s been a fantastic turnout.”
Pork and beef burgers were handed out to the constant stream of supporters, who also munched on chips and enjoyed water and pop as refreshments. Fareway, Iowa Pork Producers, Marshall County Cattlemen’s Association, Sign Creations, State Center Locker Inc. and other entities helped provide for the event.
Additionally, free will donations were given throughout the event.
At the prayer vigil, Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper and Marshall County Chief Deputy Steve Hoffman gave their thoughts and feelings on the tragic events and the outpouring of community support.
“I wasn’t surprised, but I was amazed,” Tupper said of the show of support. “I don’t know what to say.”
Though used to public speaking, Tupper said this incident of violence had left an especially deep impression, a depth matched by the love for his community and fellow officers.
“I think about my kids, I think about my wife,” Tupper said, his voice breaking as he held back tears. “It’s hit very close to home, for all of us.”
He said the Marshalltown Police Department and the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office are fully aware of the strong support from those they serve, support he says officers “will never be able to repay.”
He also said those at his own department remains in his thoughts.
“I want our police officers to know, I support you,” Tupper said. “I have your back, I love all of you.”
Hoffman echoed Tupper’s feelings on the outpouring of community support.
“Smiles are contagious and kindness is free,” he said, overlooking the crowd. “You have folks committed to service and committed to outreach.”
He said local officers pin their badges on before work and serve with honor and distinction, all for the community they serve.
A second-generation law enforcement officer, Hoffman said he remembered going, as a teen, to the funeral of one of his father’s colleagues who paid the ultimate price as a police officer.
“We care about our communities, we care about our families,” he said. “We love you, and we have to have your support and I know we have your support.”
A third speaker, Pastor Dylan Does, led three prayers after Tupper and Hoffman spoke. The first was for the two fallen officers and their families, the second for local officers and emergency personnel and their families, and the third for all those in law enforcement and emergency response in the nation.
Singer Vonna Hayes led a performance of “Amazing Grace,” a performance that many in the crowd joined.