CINCINNATI – Authorities in the Cincinnati region Friday mourned a 20-year veteran sheriff's deputy, the fifth police officer in the extended law enforcement community to die in less than two months.
Uniformed officers from multiple departments helped pack a church for funeral services for Bill Brewer, a Clermont County deputy gunned down while responding last weekend to a suspected suicide attempt by a man barricaded inside an apartment some 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Cincinnati. Another officer was wounded in the leg before a man was taken into custody at the apartment complex.
Clermont Sheriff Steve Leahy called Brewer someone he could always count on "to do the right thing" and acknowledged that he was reeling from his loss.
"I'm a mess. I'm a wreck," Leahy told the church audience in services carried through livestream by local news media. "I'm devastated."
He said Brewer gave his life "as a hero," and said the wounds from his death will never completely heal.
"Bill is gone from us today but his life and service will never be forgotten," Leahy said, pledging to honor him by "carrying on his legacy" and to support the family Brewer leaves behind, including his wife and 5-year-old son.
The sheriff lashed out during his eulogy, too, using an expletive to describe the suspect in the shootings.
Tributes for Brewer this week included one on the U.S. House floor from Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a Republican whose district includes Clermont County. Wenstrup said Brewer "died trying to a help a member of his community as he always strived to do."
Meanwhile, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco says she has been wearing a black mourning band over her coroner's badge since Dec. 17. That's when a recently retired suburban police officer who worked for the Hamilton County coroner's office killed himself, she said.
Three days later, a Cincinnati Police sergeant was found dead in a park of a self-inflicted gunshot. Last month, a Colerain Township police veteran was fatally struck by a vehicle after responding to a crash scene, and a suburban Clearcreek Township officer on his way to work was killed in a head-on crash when another vehicle crossed the center line.
"Everybody in the law enforcement community is truly shaken," Sammarco told reporters this week. The Cincinnati-based coroner since 2012 said she can't think of any comparable period for so many police deaths so close together.
"To see this many tragedies in such a short span of time, it does have an impact," Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said, standing Wednesday in front of memorial wall for fallen Cincinnati department officers. "When a department loses an officer, we all feel that pain because we've gone through it."
Wade Edward Winn, 23, is jailed in Clermont County under a $10 million bond on charges of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder.
Prosecutors said in court Monday that Winn had faked killing himself at some point during the standoff, and the two deputies were shot through a wall when they tried to enter the apartment to assist him.
Winn's lawyer, Jay Clark, said Winn has been under psychiatric care in the past. The attorney said he doesn't think Winn "fully appreciates exactly what happened or how it happened."
Sammarco said the deaths should remind the public of "the tremendous sacrifices" police and their families make to keep their communities safe.
After receiving his sergeant's badge Wednesday in a promotion ceremony, Cincinnati police officer Charles Fink said police carry a burden that's "not normal" in their jobs.
"We see, experience, touch, and hear horrific things on a daily basis, day in and day out," Fink told the ceremony's audience, which included family members and fellow officers. "We work in an environment where just the words on your vehicle, the shirt on your back, can leave you wondering whether you're going to make it home that night."
Associated Press writer Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati contributed.
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