Funeral held for Chicago police officer slain while off duty

SHARE Funeral held for Chicago police officer slain while off duty

Chicago Police 6th District Cmdr. William J. Bradley hugs family members after the funeral for Officer John P. Rivera. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A middle-aged man stood in silence, holding a “thin blue line” police flag, cigar poking out of his mouth, tears streaming down his face.

A mother pushed a stroller adorned in blue ribbons that fluttered in Friday’s chilly breeze.

“I want them to know that life is precious,” said Kristal Stosich, of her three sons, the youngest of whom, 10-month-old Jack, sat in the stroller. “I want them to support police and respect life.”

Stosich and the man with the cigar were among the dozens who gathered at 111th Street and Avenue H as Chicago Police Officer John P. Rivera’s flag-draped casket was carried into Church of Annunciata for a private funeral Mass Friday morning.

Rivera, a Gresham District patrolman who would have marked two years on the force in May, was off duty when he was shot March 23 in the River North neighborhood in what Cook County prosecutors have said was a case of mistaken identity.

“It’s one of those things where it’s not hit me yet,” said Colin Butterfield, 24, a classmate of Rivera’s at Brother Rice High School.

Butterfield recalled his friend as someone who was happy enough in his own skin to poke fun at himself. Butterfield also remembered his friend’s bravery — on the night he was shot, Rivera shielded his girlfriend from the bullets.

“Just as he jumped on top of his girlfriend in the car, he would have done the same thing for any of us,” Butterfield said. “Knowing that he would have sacrificed himself for the people he loved, we needed to be here.”

As Butterfield spoke, dozens of police officers stood at attention in their dress blues, the bills of their hats gleaming in the sunlight.

Inside the chapel, where white flowers were fashioned into the shape of a Chicago police star, Rivera’s fellow police officers and a cousin remembered him as someone they considered a brother, a genuine, tell-it-like-it-is guy who had dreamed since he was a kid of being a police officer.

“He actually lived his dream and, unfortunately, it was taken away too soon,” said mourner Joann Caporale, 56, whose son went to grade school with Rivera.

Some two hours after the service began, a lone bagpiper led the way out of the chapel, “Amazing Grace” floating out from his pipes. The caramel-colored casket came next, followed by grieving family members.

As the casket was placed in a silver-gray hearse, the flag now removed, a cluster of about 20 first- and second-graders from nearby Jane Addams Elementary School watched in silence. And as the hearse prepared to pull away for Rivera’s final journey, several children raised their tiny hands to their foreheads in salute.


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