Trooper James Sauter funeral held Tuesday

April 2, 2013 4:10:27 PM PDT
Law enforcement officers from around the country gather today to honor Illinois State trooper James Sauter, killed in a fiery wreck on the interstate.

It was a moment both heart-breaking and consoling.

Family members fought back tears amidst a sea of dress khakis in a poignant, painful tribute.

"He was the epitome of trooper," said Commander Joe Perez. "Big, strong, strapping boy. He was the kind of man you wanted showing up if your own family needed assistance on the side of the road."

Sauter's funeral drew members of law enforcement from all over the country.

Inside the church, away from cameras, there were personal tributes honoring Sauter the husband, son, and brother.

"Great-hearted, family man, loved his wife," said trooper Jason Bradley. "And (he) was always willing to help others, not only as a trooper but outside work as well."

The 28-year-old Sauter died last Thursday night when his parked police cruiser was struck by a semi-truck on an inner shoulder of Interstate 294 south of Willow Road.

The truck driver was ticketed for improper lane usage.

Tuesday, State Police Director Hiram Grau promised an examination of ways to increase trooper safety.

"Maybe increased enforcement," he said. "Maybe come up with some ideas for legislation. But we'll be meeting to make sure this doesn't happen again."

After the service Sauter's family was thanked by a grateful department.

An Illinois State Police plane and helicopter performed a flyover before a procession of law enforcement vehicles in the shadow of the stars and stripes cleared a lane for their fallen colleague all the way to his final resting place.

"I find solace in the fact that Jim's spirit and the person that he was touched so many of us," said trooper Annamarie Ragan.

Sauter's colleagues hoped that at least one good might come from this tragedy, an increased awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.