Cahokia Police officer dies in crash with pickup truck
His death on duty is first ever for Cahokia Police|
BY CAROLYN P. SMITH
CAHOKIA - The mood was somber at the Cahokia Police Department on Monday as officers and Chief Richard Watson tried to carry out their duties and deal with the loss of one of the department's younger officers, who died following a head-on collision about 2 a.m.
Officer Jeremy Chambers, 26, appeared to be traveling north on Illinois 3 and a GMC 1600 pickup truck driven by William Anderson, 37, of the 4000 block of Grove Street, St. Louis, appeared to be traveling south.
Anderson's truck crossed the center line of Illinois 3,500 feet south of Queeny Avenue and struck Chambers' squad car, police said.
Funeral arrangements for Chambers were not complete. Family members could not be reached for comment.
Chambers was from a family of police officers. His father, Earl Chambers, is a retired captain with the Cahokia Police. His brother, Chris Chambers, is a St. Louis County officer and his sister, Denise Schili, from Trenton, is married to a police officer.
Anderson and his cousin, a passenger in the truck, were taken to Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital in East St. Louis. Police said he was in serious condition. There was no medical report immediately available on the unidentified passenger who was in the truck.
The crash remains under investigation by the Illinois State Police but ISP agents did confirm that "alcohol was involved on the part of the wrong way driver." They said charges are pending against him.
Chambers, who had been with the Police Department for 2 1/2 years, was trapped inside his squad car for about an hour before emergency crews pulled him from the car. He was flown to St. Louis University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Adam Pickett, president of the senior class in 1998 when Chambers graduated from Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, said, "He was a nice, quiet person."
As a senior project, Chambers spent three weeks with the Cahokia Police Department. "Being a policeman ran in his family," Pickett said.
"He was a life guard at the the village pool, a volunteer fireman, an emergency medical technician for the ambulance company and an auxiliary policeman until he was hired Sept. 5, 2003," Watson said.
Watson met with his officers at 8 a.m. Monday. He told them that Memorial Hospital in Belleville was going to send a counselor to talk to them and offer grief support.
The news of Chambers' death shocked officers with the Cahokia Police Department. He was the first officer to die on duty since the department was started 79 years ago, Watson said,
Appearing somewhat numb, Watson said, "Everybody here is in shock. He's a 26-year-old kid. He was just a wonderful kid."
"He was on patrol and was just driving down the street," Watson said. Chambers was the kind of police officer that people liked "even if he gave you a ticket," Watson said.
"I don't believe he had one citizen complaint against him," he said.
Watson said his initial fear was that Chambers would have some kind of spinal cord injury. "It was just very unfortunate. It's tragic and as you can imagine, it's a very gloomy day around here," he said.
"It really puts the human element back into police work. Sometimes the public and police officers, too, think they're invincible," Watson said. "We have a lot of young officers here who hopefully will carry this with them the rest of their careers."
Published in Belleville News-Democrat on Apr. 25, 2006