ROCKFORD, Illinois -- A Rockford police officer and a 49-year-old man died early Sunday after authorities said the two were engaged in a scuffle and the officer then became entangled with the man’s pick up during a traffic stop.
Police identified Jaimie Cox, 30, as the officer who died.
Cox, a Hononegah High School graduate, joined the department in December 2016. He previously worked for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division and had served in the U.S. Army National Guard.
O’Shea said it is believed that Cox fired his weapon during the scuffle, but exactly how he died is still unclear. Police are releasing few details during the course of the investigation, which is being handled by the Winnebago Boone County Integrity Task Force, which is comprised of police agencies from Winnebago and Boone counties and is charged with probing officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.
“As soon as we can release details of what happened we will,” Police Chief Dan O’Shea said. “I don’t want to give information erroneously.”
Cox made a traffic stop shortly after 1 a.m. in the area of State Street and Dawn Avenue. A short time later, a brief radio transmission was made calling for assistance.
Officers who responded found Cox and a single-vehicle crash near Dawn and Turner Street, about two blocks north of the initial stop. The pick up hit a tree in the parking lot of the Unitarian Universalist Church at 4848 Turner St.
A deceased man, 49-year-old Eddie Patterson, was inside the pick up that crashed.
Cox was critically injured and taken to the hospital, where he later died.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jaimie, Jaimie’s family and his wife,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea said he and his officers are mourning Cox’s death and the outpouring of support from police agencies across the country is humbling. In social media posts on Facebook and Twitter Sunday, Chicago, McHenry County, and many other police departments have offered condolences for Cox and his family and messages of solidarity with Rockford police.
“Pray for his wife his family and us as we get through this difficult time,” O’Shea said
A text alert early Sunday morning from Rockford University warned students to stay inside because of an armed and dangerous suspect who took an officer’s firearm. Several roads were initially blocked off and passersby were told to stay inside. State Street has reopened in both directions; Dawn Avenue remains blocked due to the investigation.
“We don’t feel the public is in jeopardy,” O’Shea said before 6 a.m.
A procession of police squads crawled through the early morning drizzling rain to escort Cox’s body from OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center to the Winnebago County Coroner’s Office. The line of blue-and-red flashing lights stretched down State Street as area law enforcement paid tribute to Cox.
Cox’s death marks the seventh Rockford police officer killed in the line of duty in records going back to 1917, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. The six other officers were killed by gunfire.
Police initially tweeted that they were on the scene of a shooting involving an officer, but O’Shea would not say whether Cox was shot.
Mayor Tom McNamara called it the “worst day you can imagine.”
“It shakes you to your core,” said McNamara, who expressed his appreciation for the work officers do and the risks they take to protect the public. “On a day like today, it’s crushing. The violent crime has to end. The total lack of regard and respect for our officers has to end.”
O’Shea asked anyone with information to call police at 779-500-6551 or Rockford Area Crime Stoppers at 815-963-7867.
___ (c)2017 Rockford Register Star, Ill. Visit Rockford Register Star, Ill. at www.rrstar.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.