Funeral services for state trooper Kenneth Velez were held last Thursday at Lorain County Community College’s Ewing Center.
Hundreds of emergency responders from all over the country showed up to say their goodbyes, including four Wellington police officers: chief Tim Barfield, Lt. Jeff Shelton, Sgt. Josh Poling, and patrolman George Daher.
Shelton said he and Velez were longtime friends and the fallen trooper was approaching retirement.
“We went to college together,” he said. “I’ve known him for 30 years. He went through the academy the year before I did. We used to regularly have lunch together when I was working days. He only had about three weeks left until retirement.”
Barfield said losing Velez is a reminder of the vast number of ways officers put themselves at risk.
“We put our lives on the line working in law enforcement in all kinds of ways,” he said. “It can be about getting shot or getting hit by a car. What we’re doing out there everyday is protecting the public.”
He said losing an officer through an accident or intentional action hurts equally.
“This is a brotherhood,” he said. “Losing a brother is hard and it doesn’t matter how it happened.”
Velez was struck by a passing car Sept. 15 during a traffic stop on I-90 in Lakewood.
The driver of the car, Joshua Gaspar, 37, of Columbia Station, was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide. According to court records, Gaspar was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash. Troopers said Gaspar swerved to avoid another vehicle before striking Velez.
Velez’s children Devin, Christian, and Andria took the stage at the packed service to share their grief and thank those in attendance.
“Thank you for all your service,” Andria said. “I love him so much. He’s my hero.”
“We’re all going to miss him,” said Christian. “I know that we’ll see him again someday.”
Traffic was at a crawl for miles around Lorain County Community College. Crowds holding American flags gathered to waive to the procession which arrived at Calvary Cemetery in Lorain before the last car had left LCCC.
Col. Paul Pride, superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, began the ceremony.
“He represented well,” he said. “The Velez name, the Highway Patrol, this thin blue line that we talk about. Kenny Velez represented well. He had an infectious personality. With the love and support that Kenneth Velez showed in his life, what we can accomplish is endless.”
“That man went down a hero,” said Velez’s cousin, Ray Torres Jr. “He went down that way because he was a hero. Kenny, you’re a hero yesterday, today, and forever.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise Sgt. Josh Poling, patrolman George Daher, Lt. Jeff Shelton, and chief Tim Barfield attend the funeral services for state trooper Kenneth Velez.