Police and other law enforcement officers from 19 states and parts of Canada gathered in Northeast Ohio Thursday to honor the life of Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Kenneth Velez.
Velez, 48, was struck and killed Sept. 15 by a vehicle while conducting traffic enforcement on Interstate 90 in Cleveland.
Tributes for officers who die in the line of duty bring out a long blue line of mourners who know the dangers of law enforcement. Thursday, the long blue line, or perhaps more accurately said — the long gray line — was there.
Velez was one who wore the Ohio gray of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The funeral was held at the Ewing Center of Lorain County Community College.
"We want to honor Kenny today and in the days to come, not because he died, but because he lived and loved and laughed," said Ohio State Highway Patrol Supt. Paul Pride.
Velez was in the highway patrol's 1988 graduating class. The "Lean and Mean 118th," the classmates called themselves.
In his reflections, Pride used the words "honor," "integrity," commitment," "sacrifice" and "strength."
"Kenny demonstrated all these qualities," he said. "You already know these things about Kenny Velez."
"My father showed us more love in a lifetime than most people get from a father," Velez's son said at the service. "So we still feel the love."
The officers left the field house at Lorain County Community College and the casket carrying the body of Velez was moved through the mourners.
The pallbearers surrounding the casket were part of his "brotherhood" — walking with a fallen brother.