Thousands of law enforcement officials, first responders and family members filled Woodstock North High School on Wednesday morning as the funeral for fallen McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner took place.
Keltner, 35, of Crystal Lake, was shot and killed Thursday, March 7, while attempting to serve a warrant to a known fugitive at a Rockford hotel. He was a member of the U.S Marshall’s Service Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, which is comprised of multiple deputies from various departments across the region.
It was a position he had vied for as he worked his way up the ladder in his career, McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim said during the service Wednesday.
"As a patrol deputy, he was a leader in traffic enforcement and DUI arrests," Prim said. "As a detective, he moved rapidly upwards through difficult, high-profile assignments, finally earning himself a spot on the apprehension team."
A team of law enforcement officers carried up an American flag-draped casket containing the fallen deputy as the funeral began. Pictures of Keltner with his wife Becki Keltner and their two young boys Caleb and Carson were displayed at the front of the gym.
First responders and police officers from across Illinois were in attendance including officers from McHenry County Sheriff's Office, Loves Park, Rockford, Belvidere, Carol Stream, Beloit, Cary, Schiller Park police departments; Illinois State Police; Lake, Boone, Cook and DuPage county sheriff's departments, among others.
DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery lamented Friday the death of his former colleague, whom he'd hired in 2006 when Lowery was an McHenry County undersheriff and Keltner was a fresh-out-of-college road deputy.
“This young man with a wife and two young kids just sacrificed his life trying to take a bad guy off the streets,” Lowery said Friday. “Who else would do that? How many people are willing to step up to that call?”
Rev. Kendall Koenig, a senior pastor with Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Algonquin led the ceremony. He shed light on Keltner’s life beyond the badge. Prim and two of Keltner’s partners on the task force also gave remembrance at the ceremony.
Keltner’s task force colleagues Mike Urgo and Tony Penna praised his work ethic, determination, wit and bravery.
Urgo remembered “dark, cold mornings” in back alleys and afternoons with “no end in sight” while out on assignment with Keltner, he said. Keltner was assigned to the force as his partner in 2014, he said.
The team underwent countless hours of training which included undergoing physical fitness tests, firearm and medical equipment training and running combat and emergency drills.
“We were prepared for what could have happened,” Urgo said. “I wish that day didn’t happen. I am deeply saddened by the tragedy. We are humbled to stand before you on this day that shouldn’t have happened.”
Penna fought tears as he spoke to the crowd and expressed his love for the Keltner family.
“We have seen some stuff together,” he said of his work on the task force with Keltner. “I can tell you there was no better fugitive investigator or police officer better than Jake.”
Keltner had the most recognizable, gregarious belly laugh that Penna has ever heard, he said.
“We will forever cherish his friendship and memory,” Penna said. “This is a tragic and devastating day.”