Trooper who made 'ultimate sacrifice' honored
Auburn Hills – Family, friends and fellow law enforcement officers joined together Tuesday morning to pay their final respects to Michigan State Trooper Timothy O’Neill, who died in an on-duty motorcycle crash last week.
Family began arriving about an hour before the service at Apostolic Church on Squirrel Road. Representatives from more than 100 law enforcement agencies from across and outside of Michigan were expected to attend.
“We are truly a close-knit national family. When one of us falls, it affects all of us,” said State Police Sgt. Duane Zook, who acted as a spokesperson at the funeral, which was closed to media.
Shortly before noon, the Patriot Guard, civilian bikers carrying flags, set up near the entrance to the church property. Several hundred state police troopers and recruits filed out of the church and stood at attention on both sides of the drive, under a sun that sent other onlookers to the shade of trees.
Traditional bagpipes preceded a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps” from a trumpet at noon. A few minutes of silence followed, broken only by a low flyover from a state police helicopter.
Bagpipes, this time playing “Amazing Grace,” closed the ceremony.
At 12:15 p.m., a contingent of two dozen state police motorcyclists led a black hearse slowly out of the church property and headed north on Squirrel, taking O’Neill to his private burial and final resting place.
O’Neill, 28, of Metamora was set to be married Oct. 7 to his fiancé, Carli Hicks. O’Neill, a graduate of Western Michigan University and Lapeer East High School, is survived by his parents, a sister and a twin brother who is a police officer in Athens, Georgia.
O’Neill, a three-year state police veteran, died from injuries suffered when his departmental motorcycle collided with a pickup near Rockford, outside Grand Rapids, at 7:50 a.m. on Sept. 20. There were no other injuries in the crash, which remains under investigation, state police said.
Among tributes following the death, Gov. Rick Snyder said O’Neill “gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to all Michiganders and will be deeply missed.” Snyder, who attended the funeral, ordered U.S. and Michigan flags lowered to half -staff on state buildings in memory of O’Neill.
O’Neill is the 53rd Michigan State Police trooper to be killed or die in the line of duty in the department’s 100-year history, Zook said.
The O’Neill family released the following statement through state police:
“On behalf of Tim’s entire family, we would like to thank the citizens of the state of Michigan and across the country for their support during this tragedy. This loss of our son, brother, grandson, fiancé, friend and state trooper is great sorrow for us all.
“We express our gratitude to the Michigan State Police, the Michigan State Police Troopers Association and the Athens Clark County Police Department in Georgia for the overwhelming care they have shown all of us. The troopers have provided 24/7 care and attention, as well as meals, housing and transportation. We cannot express in words how much their love and concern has meant to us.
“We want to thank all of those who have reached out to us through social media and by making donations in Tim’s honor. This has been a very difficult time for our family, but knowing we have care and compassion from people around the nation brings us comfort in our pain. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the other families impacted by tragedies across the country.
“Our hearts also go out to the families of other recently fallen officers. You are not alone. May we share this burden together.”
Family and friends said O’Neill and Hicks “could not stop talking” about their coming wedding next month and had even posted a photograph of themselves with a “Mr. & Mrs. O’Neill October 7th, 2017” sign.
Zook said people wishing to make a contribution to the O’Neill family are encouraged to visit the Michigan State Police website or www.mspta.net/mstaf/donations.