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Community gives final salute to fallen sheriff's deputy along procession route

Community gives final salute to fallen deputy Jacob Keltner

Blue ribbons wrap everything here.

Tree trunks, street signs, traffic lights, many of them sporting a strip of blue on the day of Jacob Keltner’s funeral.

On March 7, while serving a warrant on a fugitive at a Rockford hotel, Keltner, a McHenry County Sheriff’s deputy, was shot and killed.

At noon Wednesday, Heather Horton sat in her SUV in the CVS parking lot near the intersection of Route 14 and McHenry Avenue.

There, she waited. Soon, the procession of Keltner’s friends and family would come and go, passing slowly on its way to the funeral home.

Those blue ribbons tied to the trees and street signs are what brought Horton, a Crystal Lake construction professional, to this convenience store parking lot.

Those blue ribbons represent loved ones in law enforcement.

“We have family members who are police officers,” Horton said.

Across the street, the Walgreens marquee shared a digital message.

“Deputy Keltner,” it said. “Thank you for your service.”

About 1 p.m., a hearse carrying Keltner’s body left Woodstock for the crosstown journey to DeFiore Funeral Home in Huntley.

Debbie Rhoderick stood beneath a black umbrella. She did her waiting sipping Diet Coke and puffing on a cigarette.

“I come from a police family,” Rhoderick said.

She walked from her job on Virginia Road to the intersection of Route 14 and McHenry Avenue to pay her respects like the others, many of them camped in their cars, waiting for the black hearse to pass.

In stories like Keltner’s, logic does not apply, Rhoderick said.

There are no answers good enough to unpack the painful questions that come with grief.

“It’s senseless,” Rhoderick said.

Meanwhile, 11 miles away in the gymnasium at Woodstock North High School, a team of law enforcement officers carried Keltner’s body in an American flag-draped casket.

Pictures at the front of the gym showed the fallen deputy with his wife, Becki Keltner, and their two young boys, Caleb and Carson.

In the audience were first responders and police officers from across Illinois.

Gina Snow of Crystal Lake stood near the Virginia Road CVS, holding an American flag.

With her were her mother, Karen, and three children: Daniel, 10; Andrew, 6; and Elaina, 4.

Each of them carried a homemade sign.

“God bless our first responders,” Daniel’s sign read.

“They will know they are the good guys,” Snow said.

About 2 p.m., almost three dozen people, many of them carrying American flags, stood on the pedestrian bridge that looms over Rakow Road.

In the distance flashed the police lights of the funeral procession.

The visitors looked beyond the edge of the bridge to pay their respects, many of them recording videos with their cellphones and almost all of them standing in silence.

A man in sunglasses held a Chicago Blackhawks hat over his heart as a convoy of 700 cars approached. The procession started at 1 p.m. in Woodstock and concluded in Huntley at about 3:20 p.m.

At 2:02 p.m., the black hearse carrying Keltner, flanked by four sheriff’s office motorcycles, passed beneath the bridge.

Many bowed their heads and watched the hearse pass slowly and shrink in the distance.

Blue ribbons tied to the bridge whipped in the wind.

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