KOKOMO, Ind. (March 29, 2016) -- A hero. A volunteer. A man who gave everything to his family and community.
Those were just some of the ways those who honored Deputy Carl Koontz remembered him during his funeral Tuesday.
Koontz died last week after being shot while serving a search warrant in Russiaville. Sgt. Jordan Buckley was also injured during the incident, which happened around 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 20. Koontz died from his injuries at IU Health Methodist Hospital.
Koontz, 26, would have celebrated his 27th birthday next week on April 8. He served with the Howard County Sheriff’s Department and was also a resource officer for Northwestern School Corporation. The location for the funeral has special meaning: Koontz served as a resource officer at Northwestern High School and was a familiar face to students.
His widow, Kassie, spoke during the service, which also included Gov. Mike Pence; Jill Donnelly, wife of Sen. Joe Donnelly; Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers and friends Cpl. Justin Markley and Deputy Jake Gibson from the sheriff’s department.
“Law enforcement was made for Carl. He was dedicated to his career,” his widow, Kassie, said. “The birth of (son) Noah was one of the happiest times for Carl.”
Kassie Koontz said her husband touched many lives, as evidenced by the number of people who attended the service. According to Indiana State Police, 2,000 officers and 800 civilians came to Northwestern High School to honor Koontz’s life and sacrifice.
She asked those who attended the funeral to remember their young son, Noah.
“If you see Noah down the road, when he’s older, if you could just say you were at his dad’s funeral, that would mean so much to him. I just want him to realize who his dad was.”
Deputy Jake Gibson said he was proud “to have worn this badge beside Carl.” He thanked the community for coming together in a time of loss.
“In our darkest hours, in our darkest days, we stood tall… I truly cannot thank you enough,” Gibson said. “I’m so proud of Kassie, the way she stood so strong in the most difficult time of her life… I’m proud to call Carl a great friend.”
Gibson challenged those in attendance to be good neighbors like Koontz, to “go that extra mile lending a helping hand.”
“Today it’s not about a horrible tragedy. It’s about a hero, a man who sacrificed his life,” Gibson said.
Cpl. Justin Markley said Koontz exemplified “honor, commitment, service and dedication.”
“He worked extra hours…Carl served with everything he had. He made people feel valued, respected and safe,” Markley said. “No matter what type of call, who the players were…Carl was dedicated. He was even dedicated to the very end.
“Thank you for being you. Thank you for being my friend and brother,” Markley said. “Your leadership and friendship will be forever in our hearts.
“Rest easy, my friend. We’ll take it from here.”
Gov. Mike Pence recognized Koontz for going the extra mile and putting himself in harm’s way.
“This was a courageous man,” Pence told the crowd. “His courage saved lives. Truly ‘no greater love’ was in evidence that night.”
Pence said the outpouring of support for Koontz and his family was not for how he died, but rather for how he lived.
“This good and noble man led a consequential life,” Pence said.
“It is said that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” he told Koontz’s family. “That will be our prayer for you in the days ahead, all across the state.”
Pence said the state will not forget Koontz or his sacrifice.
“May Deputy Carl Koontz rest in peace,” the governor said at the conclusion of his remarks.
After a message of support from Jill Donnelly, wife of Sen. Joe Donnelly, Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers spoke about Koontz.
“He earned our respect for who he was and how he did his job,” Rogers said. “Carl made no bones about it. He intended to be the sheriff someday.”
Rogers recalled a humorous story in which the department needed a woman for an undercover operation. Koontz volunteered, wig and all. Rogers quipped that wearing a wig in front of other members of the department may have been his greatest act of courage.
“Kassie and family, we will never forget Carl,” Rogers said.
Pastor Steven Cole delivered the message during the service, sharing stories about Carl and his family with the crowd. Cole said Koontz loved racing and made sure he had a meticulously groomed lawn. He was an avid sports fan with a good sense of humor who loved holidays because it meant he could spend time with family.
"Carl Koontz loved justice. He honored justice,” Cole said. “Thank you, Carl. I love you. We love you. Rest in peace.”
After the funeral, a procession consisting of hundreds of cars escorted the hearse carrying Koontz’s body to Albright Cemetery. Hundreds of people stood in virtual silence along the funeral procession route to honor Koontz.
On the way to the cemetery, the procession stopped at the Howard County Sheriff’s Department for Koontz’s 10-42 call. The call is a solemn tradition that represents the “end tour of duty” for Koontz.
The call was broadcast on dispatch radio outside of the sheriff’s office. “There is no greater love than a man that would lay down his life for another. Howard County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Carl Allen Koontz is 10-42. He has gone home for the final time.”
The procession passed under the massive garrison flag on its way to the cemetery. The garrison flag represented the highest honor paid to Deputy Koontz and the sacrifice he made. The Kokomo Fire Department hoisted the flag, which was on loan from the South Bend Fire Department.
Koontz’s body arrived at Albright Cemetery around 4:30 p.m. Members of the honor guard welcomed the hearse into the cemetery. Around 50 bagpipers and drummers followed the hearse. A riderless horse symbolizing “a warrior who will ride no more” followed the bagpipers.
As the casket was removed from the hearse, there was a three volley salute from seven riflemen from a Firing Party. Two people, including one from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, played “Taps.”
Eight people folded the flag that was on Koontz’s casket and they presented it to Howard County Sheriff Rogers who then presented it to Koontz’s wife Kassandra.
The bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” as hundreds of friends and family members placed a white carnation on Koontz’s casket. The carnations all had a red dot to represent the blood Koontz shed for the welfare of the community.
Once the carnation ceremony was complete, the Koontz family had a private ceremony to say a final “goodbye” to their fallen hero.