AP NEWS

Fallen McHenry County deputy returns home as friends, families, fellow officers gather

March 9, 2019

Wayne Berry stood over his drink and looked out the window.

Past the glass at Huntley American Legion Post 673, the 69-year-old veteran could see the stretch of Main Street where a funeral procession soon would bring home the body of fallen McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner.

“It’s hard to describe,” he said – and paused. “I don’t know what’s going on in this world.” 

In Keltner’s final hours, he was a member of the U.S. Marshals Service Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force serving arrest warrants at the Extended Stay America hotel on a known fugitive named Floyd E. Brown. 

As Brown fled from Room 305, where he and his girlfriend were staying, he fired a rifle at Keltner, striking him in the head.

Keltner was taken to a nearby hospital. He died at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

On Friday night, officers, deputies and dozens of law enforcement agencies escorted Keltner’s body back to McHenry County.

People gathered on the sidewalks of downtown Huntley and leaned toward the windows of nearby taverns to witness the procession – and the black hearse carrying Keltner – complete the journey from the Winnebago County Coroner’s Office to the DeFiore Jorgensen Funeral Home.

“We’re family,” said Karen Makowski, a retired 28-year Chicago Police Department veteran wearing a K9-unit hat. “We’re forever family. Everybody always sticks together.”

Lining both sides of Main Street, law enforcement officers, active and retired, their loved ones and civilians waited in the cold for the procession to pass. 

They stayed warm clutching hot coffees or teas. Some brought with them a buzz from nearby watering holes, where news of Keltner’s return trickled in Friday afternoon.

Many carried candles, American flags or homemade signs to pay respect. 

Shannon O’Neill carried with her a black-and-white Thin Blue Line flag made of wood.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” read a message on the flag.

She came to Huntley to see her boyfriend, Tim Cooney, an officer with the Algonquin Police Department, drive in the procession. He was a close friend of Keltner.

“This really is a family,” O’Neill said. 

Across the street stood a retired Elgin Police Department detective under a streetlamp, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his black pea coat. He would not share his name, but he described the feeling of losing a fellow officer. 

“It hurts,” he said.

About 8:05 p.m., a Huntley police vehicle led the procession down Main Street and rolled toward the funeral home.

The eyes of officers and deputies behind steering wheels glistened with tears. 

Lights flashing, Keltner’s brothers and sisters from the force passed by slowly.

Many onlookers, including Huntley mother Stephanie Roberts, held back tears in silence.

On a patch of street between the feet of a K9 trainer named Ralph Antfellner sat a 3-year-old German shepherd named Duke.

As the police cars passed, Duke barked and barked.

As the last police officer in the procession came and went, applause rippled along the grieving crowd.