DECATUR – An estimated 2,000 friends, family and police officers filled a church in Decatur Wednesday for the funeral of Champaign Police Officer Chris Oberheim. He was killed last week while answering a domestic disturbance call.
The funeral was closed to the public and the news media. But the public was encouraged to come out and view the procession that followed, taking Oberheim’s body to its final resting place.
The funeral at the Maranatha Assembly of God Church came to a close, as many of those attending gathered outdoors in the church parking lot. They included a drum and bagpipes corps, and police officers from departments across Illinois and several neighboring states. The officers left the parking lot in dozens of police vehicles, which were lined up for the funeral procession from the church to the township cemetery in Monticello, where the Oberheim family lives.
Ronnie Reynolds stood across the street from the church to watch, with his wife Lynne and a large American flag. The Reynolds are members of Maranatha Church. And while most church members could not attend the funeral, Ronnie said he wanted to show his support by coming to watch the procession. Imboden Drive outside the church was already lined with flags, but the Reynolds brought one of their own that was nearly as big as the others.
“It’s a privilege for us that the Lord has given us this time that we can come down here and pay our respects, and support the police officers in our community and in the state,” said Ronnie.
“Our hearts have been breaking ever since we read this,” said Lynne Reynolds. “We tear up, and we don’t even know any of them, friends or family. But we know where he is — he went straight to heaven.”
A little ways down Imboden Drive, employees had come out from a nearby office building to watch the Oberheim funeral procession.
Heather Heckman, who works for International Control Services, said it was important to recognize Oberheim’s sacrifice.
“He lost his life in the line of duty,” said Heckman. “And I think it is our duty to come out here and pay our respects to him and his family and his friends and our community.”
For Doretta Freeman, watching the funeral procession was more personal. She remembers the days when she worked for the Decatur Police Department as one of its administrative employees, and Chris Oberheim was an officer there. Freeman says Oberheim, who was a Decatur Police officer from 2000 to 2008 before joining the Champaign Police, was a “very nice officer, kind.”
“He’d (Oberheim would) come in, you know, bring his kids into the police department,” said Freeman. “We were one big family.”
Freeman says all police officers understand that there’s a possibility they can be killed in the line of duty.
“But we just lift them up in prayer daily, to make sure that they stay safe while they’re protecting the community and protecting us,” said Freeman.
The funeral procession continued on its 30 mile journey to the cemetery in Monticello. There, more well-wishers stood outside to watch the procession. And according to the News-Gazette, two Champaign fire trucks hoisted a large American flag over a Monticello street to welcome Officer Oberheim.
Christopher Oberheim was shot to death early in the morning of May 19th, during a confrontation in which his partner, Officer Jeffrey Creel, was wounded, and a suspect, Darion Lafayette, was also killed. An investigation into the incident continues.
Oberheim leaves behind a wife and four children, ages 13 to 21. He is the first Champaign Police officer to be killed in the line of duty since Patrolman Robert Tatman was killed in 1967.
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