By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — Hundreds of public safety vehicles from several area departments proceeded along East State Street Monday night as the body of a fallen Rockford police officer was escorted from the Winnebago County Coroner’s Office downtown to Fitzgerald Funeral Home on South Mulford Road.
Mourners lined the almost 7-mile stretch too, standing in support of Officer Jaimie Cox, killed early Sunday during a traffic stop near Rockford University.
Details of the stop remain unclear. What is known is that around 1 a.m., Cox, 30, stopped a pickup truck driven by 49-year-old Eddie Patterson Jr. A short time later, he radioed for assistance. A struggle ensued, and Cox somehow became entangled in Patterson’s vehicle as it drove away from the point of the initial stop. Patterson was also killed.
Responding officers initially believed Cox, who fired his weapon, had been shot. Autopsy results later showed that his cause of death was blunt force trauma. Patterson died of a gunshot wound, though preliminary autopsy reports showed he suffered blunt force trauma as well.
Officials told The Times that the plates on the truck Patterson was driving were not registered to that vehicle, which may have been why Cox stopped the driver. What escalated from there isn’t known. Those questions are typically answered by reviewing dash-cam footage. However, whether Cox’s car was equipped with a camera is not clear. Body-cam footage could also help investigators piece together the incident but, according to Police Chief Dan O’Shea, Cox was not wearing one.
Cox’s death has been ruled a homicide. Because he fired his weapon, the case is being investigated in part by the Winnebago-Boone Integrity Task Force. For the rest of Rockford, it is about remembering Cox, the first officer killed in the line of duty since 2001.
“The outpouring of support from the community to Officer Cox’s family, friends and the Rockford Police Department has been overwhelming,” Mayor Tom McNamara said.
What Cox gave up in for his community reached far beyond Illinois. Police departments across the country have not only offered their condolences but will honor the officer and his family in person.
“The City of New York is flying officers in to be here [for Cox’s funeral],” McNamara said.
McNamara added that Sunday’s incident should remind the citizens of Rockford of the vitality of public safety. It is why, considering the looming budget deficit, he has vowed to not make police department cuts. In fact, he’s played a direct role in directing an additional $1 million to support the city’s 297 officers.
“I have made it clear that public safety should not be cut to fill our budget void,” the mayor added.
Visitation for Jaimie Cox will be held 3-9 p.m., Friday at First Free Rockford, 2223 N. Mulford Road, with a law enforcement walk-through scheduled for 6 p.m. A police funeral will be at 10 a.m., Saturday, at the church. Details of the funeral procession route will be shared later in the week, RPD said.
“Officer Jaimie Cox devoted his entire adult life to protecting and serving others as a police officer and as a member of our military,” state Sen. Dave Syverson said. “We should all keep his wife, family, friends and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.”
Cox was a resource officer with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources before joining the Rockford Police Department in September 2016. He served in the U.S. Army National Guard and was a graduate of Hononegah High School and Northern Illinois University.
Area businesses have also come together in honoring the fallen officer. Hotels have offered complimentary lodging for out-of-town family members while restaurants and other merchants have offered their support, some in form of cash donations to the Jaimie Cox Memorial Fund at Alpine Bank.
Scott Nicholson, of Nicholson Hardware, told the Rockford Register Star Tuesday he is seeing a run on blue light bulbs as residents pay tribute to Cox. In response, he’s ordered 1,100 more, with plans to donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the memorial fund.
The Morgan Street Bridge was illuminated by blue LED lighting Monday night and is expected to remain that way until after Cox is laid to rest. Covered in black and blue cloth, his squad car was still parked outside Police District 2 at press time. Flowers, ribbons, crosses and other mementos sit at the location of Sunday’s traffic stop.
The Rockford Symphony Orchestra will honor Cox Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Coronado Performing Arts Center during its performance of “Mendelssohn and Brahms.” Admission is free to all area law enforcement through the RSO Share-A-Seat program.
Flags at City Hall, Police Districts 1, 2 and 3, and throughout Rockford were flying at half-staff beginning Sunday. Gov. Bruce Rauner, on Tuesday, ordered all flags throughout the state covered by the Illinois Flag Display Act to be flown at half-staff in Cox’s honor from sunrise on Thursday, Nov. 9 to sunset on Saturday, Nov. 11.
“He paid the ultimate price while working to keep our communities safe,” Rauner said in a statement. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family as they find a way to cope with this tragic loss.”
Cox is the first Rockford Police killed while serving the city since Kevin Rice was gunned down in 2001 near a new home he was building. Rice was the first officer murdered since 1980, when Officer Randall Blank was shot near a downtown Rockford bar. Other patrolmen killed on the job were Charles Williams, Arthur Bassett, Lorenzo Gillogly and Frank Cichella. R.