University Police Department sends honor guard members to NYPD officer’s funeral

By Josh Winters

Two members of the University Police Department’s Honor Guard attended the funeral of New York City Police Officer Rafael Ramos on Saturday. Ramos, along with Officer Wenjian Liu, was killed on Dec. 20 by a gunman who later took his own life.

The assailant shot and killed an ex-girlfriend hours before the killings, and made several anti-police posts on social media in the days leading up to Dec. 20, referencing the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

University officers from the Urbana campus Chris Elston and Michael Unander represented the University at Saturday’s funeral, and were flown to New York to attend the funeral for free by JetBlue airlines. The Chicago and Springfield campuses will not be sending officers to the funeral, but expressed their support for Elston and Unander.

University Police Chief Jeff Christensen said attending the funeral was a chance to show support for law enforcement everywhere who put themselves at risk to keep their communities safe.

Christensen said Ramos and Liu were more than just police officers: they were husbands, fathers, brothers and community-minded people.

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    “We are Officers Liu and Ramos,” Christensen said in a statement. “Not just those of us in law enforcement, but all of us. We are all Officers Liu and Ramos because we are deeply invested in our communities. We are all Officers Liu and Ramos because we hurt when our community hurts and we rejoice when our community flourishes.”

    It was for these reasons, Christensen said, that the police department decided to send two honor guard members to Ramos’ funeral.

    In a University press release, the department said, “the incidents that have played out around the nation during recent weeks and months have reinforced the department’s devotion to continue working with the campus community to ensure it serves everyone the best it can.”

    Josh can be reached at [email protected].