Tonight I would like to talk about a symbol many of us know and recognize as the symbol of law enforcement. We refer to this symbol as, “The thin blue line.” The line that stands between order and chaos, the good law abiding citizens and the criminals. Tonight we are here to honor those have stood firm on the thin blue line and have done their job to the highest degree and have paid the ultimate price.
For those of you who do not know me I am Trooper Clarissa Justmann. On March 24, 2015 I would survive the worst day of my career; I would survive the death of my partner and friend Trooper Trevor Casper.
To understand what happened on March 24, we have to first visit some of the good memories that Trevor and I shared. You see the first time Trevor and I ever met was when I had a dead car battery. We lived in the same apartment complex and I asked Trevor to stop by my apartment before going home to jump start my car.
Not realizing just how dead my car battery was we were forced to sit and talked for 15 minutes that day. From that moment we became quick friends and the harassment never stopped. He always made fun of me as if I was his sister. Then again he grew up with two younger sisters, Lauren and Olivia, so I guess he had 19 years of practice before meeting me.
One of my other favorite stories about Trevor involves a traffic stop and sleep. One evening I was attempting to stop a motorcycle that was not stopping I was following this motorcycle and two other deputies’ lights and sirens blaring. Throughout the course of this stop I hear my phone at the end I look and I got a text from Trevor. The text read, “Hey, I’m trying to sleep with my window open if that’s you making all that noise could you please stop. Thanks.” I look back I just laugh because that noise was me.
Fast forward again to March 24, it’s almost ironic now when I think about it, Trevor calls me at 2:45 p.m. anxious to begin his shift alone not having to start until 3 p.m., saying his car battery was dead. Being the adult and more senior trooper, I proceed to make fun of him the same way he did when came to jump start my car.
It was only fair that the harassment went both ways.
After getting his car started we hit the road both of us new young and anxious we were ready to make a record number of traffic stops that day. It was my 1-year anniversary that I had been working the road as Trooper. We had heard all the radio traffic that there was a homicide in Marinette County and that one of the banks had been robbed at gun point.
We heard this guy was traveling south and they were trying to get better updates. Trevor and I positioned ourselves within the county I took the south and he took the north to look for this guy. As I was looking in the south another Trooper, pulls into the crossover. That also was another ironic act that day because Trooper Andrew Hyer worked Sheboygan County and it’s rare for us to leave our assignments for another area.
Then over the radio I hear the worst words I will ever hear in my life “346 Eden, I’ve located the vehicle.” It was from that moment on that I don’t remember how or why I ever did the things I did but I did them. Knowing that I had to get to Trevor I left the crossover I was sitting in and my foot hit the accelerator and only came off when it was necessary. The pit of my stomach fell out from underneath me and a voice in the back of my mind said “GO!” and so I went as fast as my 2014 Ford Taurus would take me.
Racing down I41 at speeds far exceeding 100mph I went after my friend because there was no chance I was going to let him face this guy alone. Trevor gave out clear concise locations and his final location call out, one of his favorite places to eat, Rocky Rococo’s.
I continued to race north after Trevor. I entered the parking lot to Pick ‘N Save which shared the lot with Rocky Rococo’s. I stuck to the periphery of the parking to see if I could spot Trevor. I rounded the corner to turn south in the lot and when I looked up I watched as a man exited his vehicle arms out holding a gun. It was in that moment that my life changed.
I made the decision to enter into a gun fight to go back up my partner. I watched Trevor exit his squad trying to gain his footing again since his vehicle was still in drive and moving. Trevor and that dirt bag circled his vehicle and I watched as Trevor ran behind his vehicle drawing his firearm and began to fire at the retreating felon. I watched as one of Trevor’s rounds found its mark and entered the dirt bags back. It is a memory that will forever be etched in my mind.
Trevor began to walk to the rear of his car as I was exiting. All I could think was “he’s going to be fine; Trevor’s going to be okay he’s just catching his breath.” Then my worst nightmare came true; Trevor became stiff and I watched as he fell to the ground. I grabbed my long gun and did the only thing I could. I covered Trevor’s body and began to assess the situation and called for help. I will never forget having to say the words “346 is down, 346 is down.”
So tonight, just as we did that day, we recognize The Thin Blue Line and all officers who have lost their life holding the line between order and chaos, between the criminals and the law abiding citizens.
May we never forget the sacrifice of those officers and the people they left behind.
Photo courtesy Linda Cox and Fox6now.com