When Tim Nelson of Oak Creek, Wis. saw the visitation and funeral times for slain Chicago police Officer Samuel Jimenez, he knew what he had to do.
He grabbed his American flag and made the 1-hour, 10-minute trip to Oehler Funeral Home in Des Plaines.
“I just wanted to show my respect,” Nelson said Sunday (Nov. 25) from the sidewalk in front of the funeral home.
Nelson did the same last summer when two Milwaukee police officers were fatally shot.
“It’s something I wanted to do,” the Oak Creek resident said about making the trip to Chicago to honor Jimenez, who died in the Nov. 19 Mercy Hospital shootings. “I wanted to come and show them support.”
Getting words of thanks from police officers arriving at and leaving the funeral home, Nelson returned words of thanks, giving the officers his praise for their service.
Nelson said he planned to stand watch, holding his American flag, through the six-hour visitation as well as Monday’s funeral and burial services.
State Rep. Jamie Andrade (D-Chicago) went over to Nelson to thank him for his effort and to find out what motorcycle, military or police group he was with at the visitation
“I came to pay my respects and ran into Tim,” Andrade said. “I asked him who he was doing this with. When I learned he was doing it alone, I said I would help him.”
So when Nelson needed a bathroom break or went to get a cup of hot chocolate from the volunteers on hand, Andrade stood in his place, along Miner Road with the flag flapping in the night air.
“Something so simple can mean so much,” Andrade said of Nelson’s effort. “It is just one man and a flag, but it really says something.”
When praised for his actions, Nelson downplayed his efforts. “It’s the least I can do,” he said.
Jimenez was one of three people killed in the Mercy Hospital shootings. Also killed in the shootings were Dr. Tamara O’Neal and pharmacy resident Dayna Less.
Andrade was shocked when he saw the photo of the gunman. Juan Lopez, who was killed in a shootout with a special weapons and tactics officer after taking three lives, was an intern at 15 years old for former Chicago Ald. Dick Mell’s 33rd Ward office where Andrade was a staff member. The minister of a church near Mell’s office would bring over individuals in need of mentoring. Lopez was one of those individuals brought over for mentoring.
Andrade also took classes at DePaul University with Lopez.
“I was stunned,” Andrade said of learning of the gunman’s identity. “… I couldn’t believe it.”
Lopez spent a year or two as an intern in Mell’s office, Andrade said, and never showed any signs of violence.
“He just seemed to be a big, goofy kid,” Andrade said.
The state representative said he hadn’t seen Lopez in more than five years and said it is frightening how quickly mental illness can take over a person.
Andrade said more has to be done to address mental illness in the state. He noted that his 40th State Representative District was the first in the state to approve a property tax assessment to fund a mental health facility. The Kedzie Center mental health facility gets $500,000 to $600,000 a year from the tax assessment.
“It is the not the right funding mechanism, but something had to be done to make mental health services accessible,” Andrade said. “We need our mental health services so we can take people off the street and they can get the help they need.”