LAKE ODESSA, Mich. (WOOD) - The signs and other memorials placed at Eric Zapata's headstone at the Lake Odessa Cemetery are a reminder of the duty and honor he represented every time he put on the uniform.
The hugs and tears by people who gathered at the gravesite Wednesday were a reminder of the loss those close to him suffered.
"It's a year gone by. I felt that same pain I had when the knock came at my door," his mother, Connie Bernal, said.
Yet that pain has been tempered by an outpouring of support and discovery from fellow officers and the Kalamazoo community,
Alexis Zapata knew the person she loved as her father, but didn't realize his impact on others.
"I'm proud to be a Zapata. I love my last name," the 17-year-old told 24 Hour News 8. "I just, I never knew how much my dad did until I met all the officers and they explained."
Eric Zapata was answering a "shots fired" call last April 18, 2011 . Leonard "Danny" Statler opened fire on another officer from the front porch of his family home on Hays Park Avenue. Zapata arrived at a location behind the home as Statler ran through an alley.
That's where he shot Zapata, then turned the gun on himself.
Zapata was the first KDPS officer killed in the line of duty.
While the tragedy has not been easy on Kalamazoo officers, their chief says it's also brought them closer together. The outpouring of public support after Zapata's murder also helped.
"It's been magnificent. It's been outstanding. It's been therapeutic," said Public Safety Director Jeff Hadley.
The community and the department are closer now as well, he said.
"We're much better served by having that than not. And so, if that's Eric's gift to us through this tragedy, then we're very thankful for that."
GRAM Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in front of a festive downtown crowd at Rosa Parks Circle Friday night.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.
A vehicle smashed into the front of a house early Sunday in what authorities believe was a drunk driving crash.