Hundreds turn out to honor fallen officer
By John Tunison
The Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS -- As she held an American flag high, Jane Kenny became emotional as an endless stream of police cars rolled down Leonard Street with lights flashing.

"This poor officer. He didn't even see it coming," Kenny lamented, holding back a tear, as she stood along the sidewalk near Covell Avenue.

Kenny knows too well the dangers that officers face -- one of her sons is a 13-year Grand Rapids police officer, and another is on the California Highway Patrol.

"I think this has touched all of us," she said.

Kenny was among hundreds who lined the funeral procession route Friday for Officer Robert Kozminski, killed in a Sunday morning shooting as he responded to a domestic violence call. Many hoisted American flags, others toted signs reading "God Bless You Officer Kozminski." Some just stood in silent respect.

Red, white and blue balloons tied to mailboxes along Oakleigh Avenue waved in the breeze while people parked their cars in the ditch to get a glimpse of the procession.

"It's a beautiful tribute. It really is," Kenny said as she watched the slow-moving line of police cars from all over the state pass by for more than an hour.

Closer to St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, where a sea of police gathered for the funeral, Ethan Guernsey, 5, and Tyler Haverkamp, 7, stood near their mothers with signs on their shirts reading "When I grow up I want to be just like my Daddy -- a police officer."

Their fathers are both Kent County sheriff's deputies.

"This definitely brings home the reality that this job is very dangerous," said Ethan's mother, Carey Guernsey. "They don't just go to a desk job."

Her husband, Ryan, was among more than 1,000 officers in attendance Friday and "got a little choked up when he walked by and saw the sign," Guernsey said.

Because the sanctuary could not hold everyone, hundreds of police watched the service on big screen televisions set up under tents behind the church. But first, each passed by the casket and saluted.

Police came from everywhere across Michigan and elsewhere.

"We feel the connection," said Corunna police officer Angelo Panas. "This could happen to us at any time. We've all been in the situation of going on domestics."

In front of Holy Cross Cemetery, Brenda Wodarski instructed the 10 children from her day-care center who lined the street to "put your hand over your heart." The children obeyed as the procession's flashing lights crept over the horizon.

Wodarski, owner of Children's Garden day care in Grand Rapids, grew up five houses down from the Kozminskis on Pheasant Street and remembers Robert Kozminski fondly. She was in diapers when she first met "little Bobby," and Friday she brought her own daughter and nine others along to say goodbye.

"Bobby was the youngest, and we loved to pick on him," she said. "But he never had trouble holding his own. He was a trouper, and we all watched each other grow."

Along the procession route, Dawn Jermanski held a flag and watched alongside her three children.

"I want my children to understand that this is a community and that we have to stick together," she said.
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