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Published: 2/27/2007

Thousands salute slain Toledo police officer

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Danielle Dressel, widow of Detective Keith Dressel is escorted from the funeral home. Danielle Dressel, widow of Detective Keith Dressel is escorted from the funeral home.
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Mounted police Officer Greg Zattau holds the riderless horse, symbolizing the fallen hero, which was part of the funeral procession for Detective Keith Dressel. Mounted police Officer Greg Zattau holds the riderless horse, symbolizing the fallen hero, which was part of the funeral procession for Detective Keith Dressel.
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Toledo Bishop Lenoard Blair said the circumstances 'cut us to the very quick' and consoled the slain officer's family during the funeral that they will see their loved one again. Toledo Bishop Lenoard Blair said the circumstances 'cut us to the very quick' and consoled the slain officer's family during the funeral that they will see their loved one again.
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TEMPERANCE Dispatcher to Unit 812 ... Unit 812. Dispatcher to Unit 812 ... 812.

Dispatcher to Detective Keith Dressel on all channels ... Dispatcher to Keith Dressel on all channels.

Attention all units. Detective Keith Dressel has answered his final call.

The final radio call to the slain Toledo police vice detective, a taped broadcast played at the conclusion of his funeral Mass yesterday, broke somber faces into tears.

More than 2,000 people filled Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance for a funeral Mass for the 35-year-old husband and father of two.

Afterward, more than 1,500 vehicles traveled the nearly 5 miles to St. Anthony s Cemetery on Erie Road, where the completion of a graveside ceremony ended a funeral that began more than five hours earlier.

The start of the graveside ceremony was delayed to allow mourners many of them law enforcement officers to park and walk more than a mile to the small, fenced cemetery between Douglas and Secor roads for a final tribute to the fallen hero.

It s sad and it s senseless. You think of the children. No matter what you do, their dad s never coming home. It s a sad situation, Toledo police Sgt. Al Papenfus said. So many people come from so far away to honor a man they never knew.

Two lines of officers at least two people deep wove through the parking lot from Bedford Funeral Chapel to the adjacent Lewis Avenue church.

Three to four other lines of officers stood at the front doors of the church, including Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre and Toledo fire Chief Mike Bell.

The patches represented law enforcement agencies from Windsor, Canada, to Fort Wayne, Ind., across Ohio, and beyond.

After a private ceremony for the family, Detective Dressel s flag-draped casket was escorted from the funeral home to a white hearse with a small American flag on the driver s side door. White-gloved Toledo police honor guard members stood on both sides of the hearse.

Three rows of Cleveland Police Pipes and Drums members in full garb played and led the slow procession to the church. Officers lining the way saluted as the hearse passed.

At the church, pallbearers in dark suits slowly pulled the casket from the hearse. The casket was blessed with Holy Water before being wheeled into the sanctuary. Inside, the U.S. flag covering the casket was removed and replaced with a white pall.

Detective Dressel s wife, Danielle, 32, held the couple s 4-year-old son, Noah, as the family was escorted inside the church. Music playing inside resonated through large speakers outside.

Long lines of law enforcement personnel filed into the sanctuary, church hall, and gymnasium through various entrances for the Mass.

Dignitaries included Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, the state s Attorney General Marc Dann, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, Toledo City Council members, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, and former Toledo Mayor Donna Owens.

Jeff Colvin, a detective in Huber Heights, Ohio, said he didn t know Detective Dressel, who died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, allegedly fired by 15-year-old Robert Jobe early Wednesday in North Toledo.

But it didn t matter. The detective, who comes from a police department near Dayton, came to pay tribute to a fallen officer a brother in blue.

Scott and Dana Miller of Toledo watched the procession and took some photographs for their 8-year-old son, whom they said paid his respects Sunday but was in school yesterday.

It s overwhelming, Ms. Miller said. The different precincts who came. It s really impressive.

Monroe County sheriff s deputies watched the funeral on television inside the Bedford chapel across the way, opting to give the seating inside the church to Toledo officers first.

The Mass complete with hymns, readings, prayers, and Holy Communion described the detective as a courageous hero and a caring family man.

The Rev. Daniel Nusbaum, pastor of the church and Detective Dressel s cousin, called him a religious man and asked attendees to celebrate his life.

The very reason why Keith would be a member, and longed to be a member of the vice squad, was to care for the people that perhaps no one else cared for at the cost of life, Father Nusbaum said.

He also tried to comfort the grieving mourners.

Before Keith s laughter will fade away from this Earth, we ll hear it in a blink of an eye, Father Nusbaum said. That wonderful laugh.

The laugh family and friends recalled throughout the last several days ended early in life by a 38-caliber bullet.

Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair said the circumstances of Detective Dressel s death cut us to the very quick.

Fighting back tears

Chief Navarre normally very composed when speaking publicly paused between sentences and fought back tears.

Silence fell over the church and funeral home chapel as the chief recalled the morning when the detective was slain.

He said a voice rang out over the police radio: Officer down. Officer down.

The voice, he said, was that of Detective Dressel.

We honor a true hero, the chief said. A young man who dedicated his life to this community.

Chief Navarre said he never thought he would have to tell the public one of his officers had been killed in the line of duty. It had been more than 36 years since the last time that happened in Toledo.

There is nothing to prepare for that moment a moment I pray will never be repeated, the chief said. I salute you [Keith]. We all salute you and a life well lived.

Mayor Finkbeiner said Detective Dressel s children should know that their father was a true hero.

The measure of a man s life is not in the number of years lived ... rather it is in the service rendered, the mayor said.

Mr. Fisher, who extended condolences from Gov. Ted Strickland, spoke from the pulpit directly to Detective Dressel s son, Noah.

You are in a room of heroes, said Mr. Fisher, who met the detective when he spoke at the officer s police academy class graduation in 1993. Look around this room and see the men and women in uniform, your daddy s colleagues The biggest hero was your daddy.

Ken Dressel, Detective Dressel s uncle, said one of the happiest days of his nephew s life was when he was accepted into the police academy. Only second to his family, the slain detective was most proud of his badge.

As much of a cop as he was doing some of the most dangerous work in Toledo we would often see him sitting on the floor playing with the children at family gatherings, he said.

Bishop Blair told Detective Dressel s family that their greatest comfort and consolation is that they will see their loved one again.

Hard road of faith

In the meantime, there is the hard road of the cross, he said. There is the hard road of faith.

The Mass ended with Detective Dressel s last call, bagpipes, a prayer, and a hymn.

Law enforcement officers streamed out of the church and formed more than a dozen rows in front of the front doors. Music from bagpipes and drums filled the background. The officers saluted as the casket was placed inside the hearse.

The rear door to the hearse closed. The officers lowered their right hands, ending their salutes. God Bless America played through the speakers.

The procession from the church to St. Anthony s Cemetery involved more than 1,500 police cars and other vehicles from dozens of states.

Dozens of firefighters from the Toledo Fire Department and other area communities stood single file along the west side of Jackman Road leading to two fire aerial trucks forming an arch at Jackman and Temperance Road.

The firefighters saluted the passing hearse and procession. The extended aerial ladders held an American flag, which blew south to north in the wind.

The Toledo police mounted patrol unit joined the solemn procession, including for a time a riderless horse with boots backward in the stirrups, and led it to the cemetery.

Along the way, residents stood at the ends of their driveways and schoolchildren stood with their hands over their hearts.

Across the road from the cemetery, citizen mourners and officers stood silently in the cold, sometimes biting breeze, for the hearse and the clip-clop of the horses.

Eric Furry took a vacation day yesterday from his job in the sewer division with the city of Toledo to pay his respects. He said his father, Thomas, was a retired Toledo police sergeant.

It s the least we could do, Mr. Furry said. Fortunately, my family didn t have to go through anything like this.

Mrs. Dressel acknowledged those standing along the side of the road and nodded to them from inside her white limousine.

A few officers some of whom walked more than a mile because of how far back the procession had to park approached Al Bachmayer of West Toledo and his four children, ages 3 to 12, and thanked them for coming.

I think it s a sad day, said Mr. Bachmayer, who took off a half-day of work from his job as a billing operator with Toledo Public Schools. I want [my children] to understand there are people 24 hours a day watching out for them ... They do a lot for us and they take it matter-of-factly. We never say thank you.

Graveside rites

The graveside service started about two hours after the end of the Mass because of the time needed for the hundreds of people to assemble near the grave. Officers came in droves with their colleagues. Some clasped the hands of their husbands, wives, and children.

Ninty-nine percent of these people never knew Keith, said Suzy Lowery, who came up from Toledo s Old West End. But they come out anyway because it s the long blue line and they brought their husbands and their wives because they know it could be them.

Pallbearers stepped carefully as they carried Detective Dressel s casket from the hearse over the remnants of snow and ice to three blue tents set up at the grave.

Behind the tents stood countless rows of law enforcement personnel.

A shorter service included The Lord s Prayer, which many officers said aloud. The American flag on Detective Dressel s casket was folded into a triangle and given to his widow.

Seven officers fired a three-volley shotgun salute as officers snapped their own salute.

Taps echoed through the air. Amazing Grace was played on the bagpipes as snowflakes slowly fell from the sky.

As the Dressel family shared a last, private moment near the detective s casket, red-cheeked officers sniffled as they filed out of the cemetery.

It strikes you. You see it in other cities. Police and fire [here] go to other cities, said Gerry Mazur, drum sergeant with the Toledo Fire Department s Pipes and Drums, which played at the graveside. But when it s here, that s when it strikes you.

Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.

Contact Christina Hall at:chall@theblade.com or 419-724-6007.



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