KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - Shaken, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said the department "did not meet (the) expectation and send one of our officers home safe."
Addressing the media just hours after Officer Eric Zapata was shot to death, Hadley said, "this incident follows a growing trend of violence against officers."
Zapata, 35, was a 10-year veteran who was assigned to the Edison neighborhood and recently switched to the night shift. The father of three was wearing body armor when he was shot in the head and chest by a man police identified as Leonard Dan Statler.
Statler then took his own life, police said.
Hadley said Zapata was "friendly, happy, always smiling, somewhat of a jokester, always got the job done."
He's the first officer killed in the line of duty since 1867, when Kalamazoo County Sheriff Franklin Orcutt was killed.
"There's no flash card in the back pocket for how to deal with this," Hadley said. "We've set up systems to support the officers. We're going to be OK."
The chief talked about the bond officers share. "We experience death, tragedy, we share each other's secrets. We forge bonds that other folks don't. With that being said, you can imagine how close we get. We're a small group. We only represent a certain portion of the population. We have to look out for each other."
He said police and firefighters are human and they bleed and cry. "When things like this happen, it hits hard. It hits home. And we realize how fragile this is. It's a very sombering experience to live through this."
Funeral arrangements for Zapata are pending.
The Cuff and Ladder fund is collecting money for Zapata's family and funeral expenses. The public safety department is working with his family to see what they need.
Anyone interested in helping the cause can drop off any donations to Station 6, care of PSO Orfin, or mail them to P.O. Box 325, Schoolcraft, Mich. 49087, in care of the PSO Zapata Memorial Fund.
You may also drop off donations for the PSO Zapata Memorial Fund at any branch of the Lake Michigan Credit Union.
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