DANVILLE — Hundreds of people lined the streets Sunday evening, some holding American flags and signs of thanks to honor fallen officer Thomas Cottrell Jr., who was shot and killed late Sunday, Jan. 17 outside the Danville Municipal Building.
A suspect, Herschel B. Jones III, was arrested the next day after his ex-girlfriend called police saying he had abused her and was out looking to kill a cop. “Police in Danville are in danger,” she said in the 911 call.
On Sunday, the crowd made its way to Danville High School for the public memorial service, a day after Cottrell’s funeral in Newark.
“The goal this evening is not a show or entertainment,” said Patrick Bailey, senior pastor at the North Bend Church of the Brethren. “It’s about prayer.”
Prayers were offered for Cottrell and his family, including Cottrell’s partner, Tanya Rayburn, and first responders. As Rev. Robert Alexander rose to pray for the Jones family, Rayburn walked out.
“I can’t do this,” she said, leaving the gym, followed by other members of the family.
“We’re praying for the family, not him,” Bailey told her as she passed him. “Sorry.”
Alexander spoke to the mostly empty chairs reserved for the officer’s family as community members looked on.
“Two families have been shattered and our community has been scarred by this senseless violence,” he said.
Danville Police Chief Dan Weckesser remembered Cottrell as a dedicated officer.
“Tom didn’t know what off-duty was,” he said.
Deanna Wojtseck was one of the many residents who came to show her support.
“This is my home, my community,” she said after the memorial. “I’ve lived in Danville my whole life and I know Tanya pretty well. … It’s still so surreal. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Gene Matheny has also lived in Danville most of his life.
“It’s such a shock to lose someone like that,” Matheny said. “It doesn’t happen in a small community. It’s not supposed to. I was a kid in Akron. I know what violence is. Not here.”