“He had one hour left in his shift,” Rey Torres Jr. said. During that hour, on Sept. 15, Torres’ first cousin, Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez, was killed in the line of duty. Velez, who graduated in Police Science from Lorain County Community College, was struck by a driver while conducting a traffic stop on I-90 near the Warren Road exit. He is survived by his three children.
Trooper Velez’s end of watch was honored Wednesday Sept. 21 afternoon at Lorain County Community College’s Ewing Field House, where family, students, teachers, fellow law enforcement officers and members of the community paid their last respects. The funeral was held Sept. 22, also on the LCCC campus.
“Many people in the community, even outside the community, are feeling this loss,” Torres explained. “The support Kenny has been getting is amazing.” This feeling was evident by the shear number of visitors who came to pay their respects at Trooper Velez’s wake, which saw a line of people of stretching from the inside of the Ewing Field House, through the atrium and all the way down the sidewalk leading to the parking lot.
Outside of LCCC, the surrounding communities themselves collectively honored Velez’s 27 years as a law enforcement officer. The Cleveland Indians paid tribute to Velez by displaying a memorial picture during a recent home game, a post on the Ohio Going Blue Facebook page highlighting Velez’s character went viral, being shared over 7,000 times, a high school football game between Amherst and Berea-Midpark had attendees and players sporting the color blue in solidarity, and Governor John Kasich has ordered all flags at half-staff for Velez’s funeral.
“[He was a] family-oriented, hard worker who loved his job and family,” Torres said.
James D. McManus, Assistant Professor/Coordinator of Criminal Justice, Social Sciences and Human Services at LCCC, weighed in on the risks of being a law enforcement officer and how it affects one’s family life, saying “kiss your loved ones good-bye because you’ll never know if you’ll get a second chance,” highlighting the daily dangers peace officers face while on duty.
Even with the risks and dangers associated with the occupation, the main objective remains protecting and serving our local communities, with McManus stating “when you lay your head on the pillow at the end of the day, you hope you made a difference.” According to ODMP.org, a memorial page that tracks law enforcement officer deaths, Trooper Kenneth Velez was the fifth law enforcement officer in the state of Ohio to fall in the line of duty in 2016. Nationally, he was one of ninety officers killed on duty this year.