A long weekend of mourning — at the tail end of an agonizing year of on-duty Chicago police deaths — began Thursday evening with the wake of Officer Conrad Gary.
Hundreds of Chicagoans both in uniform and out spanned the block outside the Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn for hours, paying respects to one of the two officers killed while searching for a gunman earlier this week in the Rosemoor neighborhood.
“We just want the family to know that the entire city of Chicago is grieving with them,” community activist Andrew Holmes said. He joined the throngs of mourners that ranged from rank-and-file police officers to nearby residents to top city officials.
Gary and Officer Eduardo Marmolejo were searching for a suspected gunman on the Metra tracks Monday evening near 103rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue when they were hit from behind and killed instantly by a southbound South Shore Line train. Authorities have said they were apparently distracted by the noise and lights of a train coming from the other direction.
“This time last week we were getting ready for the holidays,” one relative said at the wake, asking not to be named. “It’s all still sinking in.”
Gary, an Oak Lawn native, graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 2009 before serving five years as an Air Force police officer and another year in the Air Force Reserve. He’d been on the Chicago Police Department almost two years when he died.
The 31-year-old leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and their 6-month-old daughter, Tess.
“He was a great father,” the officer’s father Mike Gary told the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this week. “He was a great husband. And he was a good police officer. He loved that job. He did it for only 18 months, but he excelled at it.”
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said the wake was one of the first steps for officers to start healing.
“A lot of our officers are still in shock. They need to talk to each other and keep communicating, because that pain will be there for a long time.”
Graham said he’d met with the officers’ families.
“There was a lot of love there. It’s just a tragedy on so many levels,” Graham said.
The deaths of Gary and Marmolejo came less than a month after Officer Samuel Jimenez was slain in a gun fight with a shooter at Mercy Hospital. And in February, Cmdr. Paul Bauer was fatally shot by a robbery suspect in the Loop.
“It feels like we were just in line at Sammy’s wake,” one CPD officer said, declining to give her name.
Gary’s funeral is set for 9:30 a.m. Friday at the St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel, adjacent to St. Rita High School, 7740 S. Western Ave.
Marmolejo’s wake will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at the same funeral home at 4727 W. 103rd St. in Oak Lawn, followed by his funeral at 11 a.m. Saturday, also at the St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel.