Mother of officer's daughter says he was a great father
By Barton Deiters
The Grand Rapids Press
GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP -- As 3-year-old Kailey Ann Kozminski watched TV Sunday, a picture of her father came on. She went to the screen and laid her head where his chest would have been and said, "Oh, Daddy."

For her mother, Heather Cosgrove, it was as familiar as it was soul-crushing.

"She would do that all the time -- put her head on his chest and say 'Oh, Daddy,'" said Cosgrove, choked with grief as she talked about the father of her child, slain Grand Rapids Police Officer Robert Kozminski. "That was her favorite place to be, and now she'll never be able to be there again."

Cosgrove and Kozminski lived together for five years, until January, but the two remained very close, she said, and his relationship with his daughter never wavered.

So the 24-year-old single parent says she is devastated following the shooting of the seven-year police veteran.

Kozminski, 29, was killed by a shotgun blast to the head as he investigated a threat 1:40 a.m. Sunday at 1233 Emerald Ave. NE. On Tuesday, Jeffrey Scott VanVels, 45, was arraigned in Grand Rapids District Court on an open murder charge.

Cosgrove said Kozminski preferred not to talk about work when he was at the Jenison home the two bought together and shared with their daughter, but it came up anyway.

"He'd wake up at night, sweating and crying, saying 'I just died.' He was sure he was going to die on the job. And I'd say, 'you're not going to die,'" she said. "But he still went out there every day."

The two met more than six years ago at the former Chez Ami Complex in Wyoming. The Cadillac native said she immediately was taken by the striking young cop.

"It was his eyes, his beautiful blue eyes, and our daughter has those eyes," she said. "I die a little bit every time I look at those eyes now."

She said he was a strong, gentle man who loved his family, his job and hated being alone.

In April 2004, Kailey was delivered, and Cosgrove said another love affair was born.

"She loves him so much, and I know he still loves her," she said. "I could not have found a better man to be my daughter's father."

He had custody of the girl 10 nights a month, which matched his days off, but she said the two usually were together much more often than that. The officer doted on his daughter.

"She doesn't understand a lot of what's going on," Cosgrove said. "She'll say 'Daddy's with Jesus,' and she says things like she keeps Daddy in her heart. It's not really real for her."

Cosgrove said she is getting support from her family and the Kozminskis, with whom she said she always has been close.

She said she spoke to Kozminski, whom she called by his middle name, Anthony, at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, less than 24 hours before his death.

She cannot understand why someone would kill a man loved and respected by so many.

She said the death is a blow for the community, as well as his family, young daughter and the woman who said she still loves him.

"He wasn't just my daughter's father, he was my best friend," she said, weeping. "I don't know what we're going to do without him."
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