An honor guard, the playing of “Taps”, and a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace” as he walked into the distance were features of two ceremonies in Champaign and Urbana Friday, remembering police officers who have died in the line of duty.
The ceremonies were held as part of National Police Week observances.
At the Police and Fire Memorial in Champaign’s West Side Park, a ceremony remembered the three Champaign police officers — Christopher Oberheim, Robert Tatman and Thomas Dodsworth — who were killed on duty over the years.
Police Chief Timothy Tyler reminded the gathering of the oath taken by the fallen officers and the sacrifice they made.
“These men gave their word and they gave more than what we could ever ask for,” said Tyler. “We will carry their memories with us forever.”
Friday happened to mark the second anniversary of the death of Officer Oberheim., He was killed while responding to a domestic violence call.
Officer Tatman was killed by an unknown assailant during a traffic stop in 1967, and Patrolman Dodsworth died in a gun battle while trying to make an arrest in 1913.
Members of the Oberheim and Tatman families attended the ceremony, including Christopher Oberheim’s widow, Amber Oberheim, and Robert Tatman’s son, Daniel Tatman.
A second ceremony outside the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana remembered police officers who lost their lives on duty throughout the county and nearby areas. It was the first Champaign County memorial ceremony held since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the three Champaign officers, the county ceremony remembered Illinois State Police Master Trooper Todd Hannekin, killed in an auto accident in Bondville in 2021; State Police Sergeant Rodney Miller, who died when his vehicle was struck by another car near Bondville in 2006; Champaign County Deputy Glenn Hewerdine, a victim of vehicular assault in 1962; and FBI Special Agent William Ramsey, fatally shot while attempting to arrest bank robbery suspects in Penfield in 1938.
As the guest speaker, retired county judge Jeffrey Ford noted that the Champaign County area went for decades after Robert Tatman’s death without the loss of a law enforcement officer. But he said the list of officers killed on duty now had an uncomfortable immediacy.
“More recently, we have lost Douglas County chief deputy, and former District Ten state trooper Tommy Martin, and Champaign police officer Chris Oberheim,” said Ford. “Now there are officers I knew on that list. And a sad day has become much more sobering.”
Martin was killed in 2007, shot in a rural area near Villa Grove, during a chase of two suspects engaged in a crime spree.
Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman closed the ceremony with a word of thanks for the deputies, police officers and officers-in-training in attendance.
“Be vigilant, stay safe, and never forget who we serve,” Heuerman said. “Thank you for your dedication to serve others and the sacrifices you and families have made. I pray you always return home at the end of your shift.”