Pain looms over Detroit Officer Courts' funeral Monday

George Hunter Kayla Ruble
The Detroit News

Detroit — There will be tears. Prayers. Outrage. A doleful bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace."

Monday's scheduled funeral for slain Detroit police Officer Loren Courts at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit won't be routine for Gary Marchetti, but the longtime bagpiper and ex-cop expects the service to be sadly familiar.

"These funerals are all the same, but then, each one is different," said Marchetti, a member of the Metro Detroit Pipes and Drums bagpipe band that has played 93 funerals for Michigan police officers and firefighters since the group formed 20 years ago.

"The savage pain that's being felt by the department and the families, especially the husbands, wives and kids, is the same at every funeral," the former Dearborn and Houston cop said. "But then, you start looking at the officers' individual stories, and the families' stories, and each one is a journey and a story in and of itself."

Family, friends, and fellow officers attend visitation services for Detroit police Officer Loren Courts at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Sunday.

Courts, 40, was killed July 6 when he and his partner were ambushed while responding to a 911 call reporting shots fired near Joy Road and Marlowe Street on Detroit's west side.

Seconds after Courts and partner Amanda Hutchens of the 2nd Precinct arrived on the scene, police said 19-year-old Ehmani Davis opened fire from inside his apartment above the shuttered Desire Hair Salon on Joy Road. Davis shot through the closed apartment window, and a bullet crashed through the police cruiser's windshield, hitting Courts in the neck, police said.

After Courts and Hutchens exited their squad car, Hutchens tried to save her partner's life, police officials said. She continued administering first aid even after Davis walked out of his apartment and approached her from behind, brandishing his Draco pistol, police said. 

Other officers at the scene fired multiple shots, killing Davis, police officials said.

Metro Detroit Police & Fire Pipes & Drums members Patrick Ewing, left, of Livonia and Gary Marchetti of New Haven play the snare drum and bagpipes, respectively, earlier this year. On Monday, the band will play at Officer Loren Courts' funeral.

In the aftermath of the killing, there have been multiple fundraisers for the Courts family. The family set up a gofundme.com page, which had raised more than $77,000 as of Sunday.

The Officer Collin Rose Memorial Foundation had raised more than $15,000 by Sunday. The foundation is named after former Wayne State police Officer Collin Rose, who was killed in 2016.

The Sweet Treats Station, a Woodhaven ice cream parlor, has planned a fundraiser from 2-8 p.m. Monday at the shop at 20022 Vreeland Road. At 8 p.m., police officers are scheduled to escort the organizers to the 2nd Precinct to hand over the funds.

Others attended the visitation to show their respects to Courts.

“We just come together in moments like this and it’s hard to accept,” said Ruth Littleton, 83, who was at the visitation Saturday.

Littleton, who said she was related to Courts through her grandfather's side of the family, added: "Right now I just feel so full because this is so unnecessary ... (he was) a son, a father, a husband, a cousin … he was loved. At this point I trust God to keep the family lifted up and to keep the city of Detroit protected.” 

The visitation was held Saturday and Sunday at Greater Grace Temple on Seven Mile Road, which has hosted funerals for other slain Detroit police officers, including Rasheen McClain in 2019, Glen Doss in 2018 and Sgt. Kevin Miller in 2016.

According to Marchetti, before his 32-member group formed in 2002 to honor slain Eastpointe police Officer Jessica Nagle-Wilson, Metro Detroit didn't have a dedicated bagpipe band to honor local fallen police officers and firefighters.

"Windsor police were always good about coming to help out, as were the Shriners," Marchetti said. "But these are our brothers and sisters, and 4-5 of us who were in different bands got together and decided that we should take care of our own."

"We just played (an event) yesterday, and a lady came up to us and starts crying, and says, 'I can't tell you how much this means to us,'" Marchetti said. "Her daughter (a police officer) was killed in Indiana, and they had a pipe band there."

The tradition of bagpipes at police and firefighter funerals carried over from the instruments’ use at Irish funerals. Starting in the second half of the 19th century, police departments in large U.S. cities began including the old-country bagpipe ritual.

Members of the Warthogs Motorcycle Club arrive for the visitation for Detroit police Officer Loren Courts at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Sunday.

"Doing this for 20 years, I've become pretty good friends with some of the families, and one thing they always say is that the bagpipes lend an air of honor and respect to the services," Marchetti said. "It's an honor for us."

After Courts' photo is added to the Fallen Police Officers Memorial in the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters lobby, it'll take up the last space in the gallery, requiring another section to be built, said Patti Kukula, director of the Detroit Public Safety Foundation, which maintains the memorial.

"It's a shame there are so many pictures," Kukula said. "We're going to need more room."

Courts was the 231st Detroit police officer to be killed in the line of duty since the department formed in 1865.

In a case that remains unsolved, George C. Kimball was the first Detroit police line-of-duty death. On Oct. 5, 1883, Kimball was fatally shot while questioning a group of men and prostitutes near Beaubien and Jefferson, which at the time was one of the city's most notorious red-light districts.

The Detroit News described the mood of the mourners at Kimball's funeral at the former Epiphany Church near Trumbull and Myrtle (now Martin Luther King Boulevard) in the paper's Oct. 8, 1883, edition:

"The people were quiet and orderly, but discussed the circumstances of the killing in low tones," The News reported. "Expressions of indignation were heard on all sides, the general sentiment seeming to be that extraordinary measures must be taken to rid the city of the dangerous element with which it is cursed."

ghunter@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN