Ten years later, community still mourns fallen officers

It has been ten years since two Mishawaka police officers were killed while on duty.

Corporal Tom Roberts and Patrolman Bryan Verkler responded to a “shots fired” call December 13, 2003. They eventually confronted a suspect who fired at them and then turned the gun on himself.

“We didn't have serious crimes like this,” said Robert Beutter, who was mayor of Mishawaka at the time. “No officer had been murdered on the job before in our nearly 200 year history. This was a pretty shocking event.”

In the days following the shooting, there was an outpouring of support for the police department and the families of the officers.

“It doesn't take away the sadness but the tribute that was paid to them was overwhelming,” Beutter said. “The respect was not just from this area or the state but we had officers from California and the east coast.”

People lined the streets for the funeral procession and waived American flags as police cars drove by.

Newscenter 16 chopper video captured just how many cars took part in the procession.

While it has been a decade since the violent night, Mishawaka officers still feel the pain of losing two of their men in one day.

Members of the department gathered around their fallen officer memorial just outside the police station Friday. They shared a prayer then had a moment of silence to honor Roberts and Verkler.

“This is a smaller community,” said Ken Witkowski, Mishawaka chief of police. “People see officers as members of the community. You see them at church, at the grocery store. It’s family. So, it is a great loss. You lose a family member, it just does not go away.”

Officers reflected on the day they lost their friends but also looked back on the good memories.

“They were two real good guys,” said Steve Ravotto, assistant police chief. “Bryan was somebody who was a big figure, kind of like a gentle giant. Tom was Mr. Funny man. He always made everybody laugh. Everybody enjoyed being around Tom and Bryan.”

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