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Tigers honor fallen officer Collin Rose in emotional event

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Tigers general manager Al Avila, right, with police chief Anthony Holt, far right, unveils a special jersey with the name and badge number of Sgt. Collin Rose during the Tigers Winter Caravan event at the Wayne State University Police department on Friday.

Detroit -- As touched as they were that one of Collin Rose's favorite sports teams, the Detroit Tigers, honored their son in an emotional ceremony at Wayne State on Friday, Karen and Randy Rose couldn't hide their frustrations.

Nor did they try.

The case of Rose, the first Wayne State police officer to be killed in the line of duty, remains cold nearly two months after his murder in a neighborhood just off campus.

"As much as we're so grateful for the community, we need the community to come out. Somebody saw something, somebody heard something, somebody saw 10 minutes after it happened, somebody didn't look right, in the wrong place," said Rose's mother, Karen.

"We need this community. They just need to give them a name, give police a name."

"Point them in the right direction," said Rose's father, Randy.

"This is a great city that's on a comeback," said Karen, who made the trip to Detroit on Friday from the family's hometown in Richland, in west Michigan near Kalamazoo. "But you're not going to have a great comeback with a killer running around the city. He killed a cop, he'll kill another."

Rose, a five-year member of the Wayne State Police Department who was part of the K-9 unit, was shot in the head during a stop the night of Nov. 22. He died the following day.

A suspect was arrested Nov. 25, but was released Dec. 7 and charges dropped after surveillance video showed him elsewhere at the time of the shooting.

Niyo: Tigers' Michael Fulmer pitches in wherever needed

Since then there have been leads, and the task force assigned to the case is working around the clock, said Anthony Holt, chief of the Wayne State Police Department. But answers remain elusive.

"It's frustrating, so much I'm not really sleeping at night," Holt said. "Why, on Day 56, I'm not at the point where I can say we're really close.

"We're still digging, every lead, every tip is big, no matter how small you think it is.

"It's impossible in this city for something like this to happen, and nobody knows nothing."

The Wayne State Police Department, which had dozens of uniformed officers in attendance Friday, hopes the Tigers' visit helps keep the case in the public eye -- and possibly prompts some substantive leads.

‘The most emotional’

The Tigers have made hundreds of stops over the years on their annual, two-day winter caravan across the state, most usually sprinkled with plenty of fun -- like serving as celebrity waiters, or holding a dance-off.

Friday's stop at Wayne State, though, was different.

It was significantly more meaningful. General manager Al Avila was joined by second baseman Ian Kinsler and pitcher Michael Fulmer, among other team personnel, in presenting the Rose family and his fiancee, Nikki, with a framed pictures of Rose at Comerica Park. They then unveiled a framed Rose Tigers jersey, with No. 128, his badge number.

The Tigers' Michael Fulmer, left, presents parents, Karen and Randy Rose, and Ian Kinsler presents Nikki Salgot of St. Clair Shores, fiancee of Sgt. Collin Rose, with pictures from the Tigers on Friday.

"Definitely the most emotional (stop), that's for sure," said Kinsler, who grew up with a father who worked in law enforcement, in Arizona. "I'll remember it forever.

"It was fun to talk baseball, but really we were here for the family of Collin Rose."

Following the ceremony, Kinsler hugged Rose's parents and fiancee. But he didn't say anything.

"It's a tough emotion to describe," he said. "I really had nothing to say. There's really no words you can say, just let them know that you're here to support them."

There's a special bond between athletes and officers. They interact almost daily during the season.

"They're a part of our life, whether it's getting on the bus and having to go to an airport through a police escort, through a crazy crowd, every day at the ballpark they're standing on guard protecting us on the field," Kinsler said. "We understand they're putting their neck out there for us. We understand that and respect that."

While many of the Tigers' caravan stops are, understandably, to corporate sponsors, they often find time for visits to various law enforcement departments. There was a visit with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Farmington Public Safety Department, the Michigan State Police and the Grand Rapids Police Department on Thursday, and at Selfridge Air National Guard Base and with the FBI on Friday.

Still, the Wayne State visit stands out. The Tigers and Wayne State share a community, and so they share in the pain of a fallen officer.

"This is one of the more, obviously, important stops for us," Avila said. "It's a tragic situation, so your heart goes out to the family.

"You want to show your support for the family and the police officers here. We're behind them, we support them.

"And we love them."

Loved sports, competition

Rose, posthumously promoted to sergeant, wasn't always a fan of being the center of attention. Holt, his boss, said he'd often get calls from citizens reporting an officer who'd helped them change a tire, or something else. He'd ask for the name, but the officer would never give it. After some digging, more times than not, all signs would point Holt back to Rose. Even since Rose's passing, his parents are learning new things about their son -- like the children's literacy program he was well involved with, that nobody close to him really knew about. And other ventures, too.

But those close to Rose say he certainly would've enjoyed Friday's ceremony. He grew up a Tigers fan, taking many trips as a kid with the family from Richland to Detroit, usually for afternoon games.

"We have the best family memories," said Karen Rose, "of being at the Tigers.”

He loved sports -- he played football growing up -- and competition.

"He was an athlete himself," Holt said. "This is a guy who comes in an hour before his shift and works out in the gym. He goes to school, takes off his gun belt and he challenges kids to a foot race.

"Some guys pull the car over and say, 'God, I hope this guy doesn't run.' Like me!"

Rose spent much of the second half of last baseball season working at Comerica Park, with his dog Wolverine, as part of a new, Vapor Wake program that was, in part, funded by a $45,000 donation from the Ilitches' charitable foundation. Wolverine was trained for explosive detection, or vapor detection. Rose also worked at some Lions games; his visitation was Nov. 30 at Ford Field, a first for the stadium.

It wasn't a surprise to Rose's parents that he became a police officer.

"He was always a protector" as a child, said Randy, who acknowledged he never knew where that trait came from.

While not a great student in high school, he took classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College -- and aced them. He then graduated from Ferris State before joining the Wayne State Police Department. He had big plans, aside from his looming marriage, including developing a training facility for K-9 dogs. The job was a love.

And so was the Detroit community that embraced him in life, and continues to do so in death.

"It shows the dedication, it validates his decision to be a police officer," said Holt, whose officers remain in touch with the Roses on a weekly basis, if not more frequently. "They don't have to second guess, 'Did he make the wrong decision by going into this line of work?'

"I don't think they have to second guess the road he took." @tonypaul1984