‘Dignity, honor, respect’: Kalamazoo County mourns death of deputy

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Candles burned outside the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office and a cruiser was adorned with a large black and blue ribbon Monday to honor a deputy who was killed in the line of duty.

Deputy Ryan Proxmire died Sunday, the day after he was shot south of Galesburg while chasing a fleeing suspect.

“Ryan J. Proxmire, deputy sheriff, a man who responded to trouble so others would not have to. He did so with dignity, honor and respect,” Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said during a Monday afternoon press conference. “I, along with the women and men of the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, are devastated by this loss.”

Proxmire, 39, graduated from Three Rivers High School in 1999. He was married with four children in their teens, a friend told News 8.

The sheriff said Proxmire joined the department nine years ago. He worked in the courts, jail and as a patrol officer. He was also a field training officer, instructor and volunteered to serve as a temporary sergeant when needed.

“We will not forget that he served with honor and dignity. We will not forget how he loved his family and the community. We will not forget how he cared deeply for the people he served for and with,” Fuller said. “Deputy Proxmire was a professional. He went about his duties competently, treating all people with dignity, honor and respect. He is already missed.”

DEPUTY REMEMBERED AS ‘ANGEL FOR THE COMMUNITY’

Erick Trombly said he met Proxmire because the deputy always seemed to be on duty when Trombly hit deer.

“It became a running joke about how my truck and I had harvested more deer than he has over the past several years as a hunter,” Trombly recalled. “It developed a small friendship to the point where he handed me a business card … and said, ‘Anytime you ever need anything, call this number, leave me a voicemail, I’ll call you back.'”

He said he still keeps the card on his fridge.

Eventually, Proxmire would park his cruiser in Trombly’s driveway to look for speeding drivers. Trombly said he was grateful because it helped slow traffic and make the area safer for his and neighbors’ kids.

“He had a special thing he would do so we would know he was here at night — because he was working night shift — whenever he’d use our driveway … he would just turn on those lights for just a second so we knew he was out here,” Trombly said. “It was like having a little hidden angel on our shoulders for the community.”

An undated courtesy photo of Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Proxmire.

Trombly remembered Proxmire as a professional, saying he had a talent for getting along with people and that he was always there for his community. He said he’ll miss the safety of having his friend, a family man and a deputy who loved his job around.

“He said, ‘I don’t do this job for any kind of accolade of being a deputy. I don’t want to be a so-called hero. I want to make a difference in this life,'” he remembered a conversation with Proxmire. “He said, ‘The biggest I want to leave in this life is something for my wife and kids to be proud of. And if that means someday that I don’t come home, I want them to remember and know that no matter what I did or how I’m remembered, I always put them and loved them more than I would ever love this job.'”

Trombly lives only a few minutes down MN Avenue from where Proxmire was shot. He said he’ll now avoid driving past that spot.

“It’s just a constant reminder that our hero’s gone,” Trombly said.

ELECTED OFFICIALS HONOR PROXMIRE’S SACRIFICE

“One of the things that I’ve heard the sheriff say for years … was that we’re Team Kalamazoo,” Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners Chair Tracy Hall said Monday morning. “So each time we have a tragedy like this … we have been Team Kalamazoo. That resonates with me every time there’s an event like this. And we’re going to do what we do best and we’re going to do it together.”

On behalf of commissioners, Hall offered condolences to Proxmire’s family, Sheriff Fuller, his department and the community.

“We’re seeing how Kalamazoo rises up. Other agencies are stepping in so that our sheriff and his deputies can deal with this tragedy,” Hall said. “I know Kalamazoo. We’re a special place, it’s a special county, it’s a special city. And we’re unique and together we’ll get through this.”

In a statement Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer honored Proxmire’s “ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty — a debt that can never be repaid” and said that he should be remembered in words and actions. Her office said flags would be lowered in honor of Proxmire, likely on the day of his funeral, though that has yet to be finalized.

“Our state is heartbroken with the loss of Deputy Ryan J. Proxmire. Every day, Deputy Proxmire put on his uniform to make a difference in his community and keep families safe. This weekend, he made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty — a debt that can never be repaid. We must honor his memory and life of public service through our words and our actions. There’s no doubt that Deputy Proxmire was a staple in Kalamazoo County, and his passing leaves a tremendous hole in the hearts of so many people who had the chance to know him personally. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and fellow officers through this difficult time.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Condolences also poured in from community and state leaders on social media, with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, saying it “breaks my heart” and offering support to Proxmire’s co-workers.

State Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, offered his deepest sympathies as he paid homage to the bravery of first responders.

“Healing is a long process, and I know that the pain and grief will be with us for a long time,” McCann told News 8 via Zoom. “(Law enforcement officers) are folks who run towards danger when we are running in the other direction and this is the most terrible outcome of that work.”

“We lift you all up,” McCann added to Proxmire’s colleagues and family. “We mourn with you. We will do anything that we can to support you and help you through this extremely difficult time.”

Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson called it a “sad, sad moment and time for reflection.”

State Rep. Julie Rogers, D-Kalamazoo, offered gratitude to Proxmire for his sacrifice and called for an end to gun violence.

On Sunday afternoon, people left flowers, prayed and sang worship songs outside Bronson Methodist Hospital, where Proxmire was being treated. After his death, a crowd gathered for a vigil outside the sheriff’s office in Kalamazoo, the somber scene lit by the flashing lights of dozens of emergency vehicles.

After Proxmire was shot Saturday evening, other deputies continued chasing the suspect until he crashed into a field south of the village of Climax. Authorities say the suspect then started shooting at deputies. They returned fire and the suspect was killed.

While Sheriff Fuller refused to say the suspect’s name at the press conference, Michigan State Police later identified him as Kyle Goidosik, 35, of Vicksburg.

Funeral arrangements for Proxmire are still pending. Community members may leave their condolences at a candlelight vigil page on Facebook. Fuller said Proxmire’s family was grateful for the outpouring of community support.

The sheriff also thanked surrounding agencies for taking calls for his department while his deputies grieve.

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