Devin Velez’s eyes were rimmed red as he stood at attention last Thursday in his U.S. Air Force uniform at his father’s funeral.
The airman was recalled from service in South Korea to grieve with his family over the death of Ohio state trooper Kenneth Velez. He hugged brother Christian and sister Andria at the podium as they said final goodbyes.
All three attended Amherst Steele High School, where Christian is a sophomore and a lineman on the varsity football team. His Comets teammates were among the 95 students who left classes to attend the funeral in a show of support and school pride.
“Thank you for all your service,” Andria told those who attended the ceremony. “I love him so much. He’s my hero.”
“We’re all going to miss him,” said Christian. “I know that we’ll see him again someday.”
Traffic was at a crawl for miles around Lorain County Community College, where law officers and mourners gathered from all over the nation to pay respects.
“That man went down a hero,” said trooper Velez’s cousin, Ray Torres Jr. “He went down that way because he was a hero. Kenny, you’re a hero yesterday, today, and forever.”
Col. Paul Pride, superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, began the ceremony in front of a crowd of emergency responders gathered inside the Ewing Center.
“He represented well,” he said. “The Velez name, the Highway Patrol, this thin blue line that we talk about. Kenny Velez represented well. He had an infectious personality. With the love and support that Kenneth Velez showed in his life, what we can accomplish is endless.”
Sgt. Cliff Dowell of the Highway Patrol said Velez was quite the impressionist and was always ready to make someone laugh to turn a bad day around.
“It’s hard to single in on just one story about him,” he said. “I will say he was a character and a comedian. He was great at doing impersonations of fellow troopers. He always remembered sayings they may have or certain ways that they talked. He was always a funny character.”
William Thaden, pastor of Sacred Heart Chapel in Lorain where Velez was a member, closed the ceremony by echoing the positivity showed by the trooper’s family.
“Darkness wants to creep in where it shouldn’t be to remind us of all that’s been lost,” he said. “Kenny is now embraced by mercy. He is set free by a new, full love. I know we’ll see him again.”
American flags lined all of Abbe Road leading up to the LCCC entrance, many waved at cars passing to and from the services. Crowds could be seen down a good portion of Rt. 254 stretching into Lorain as well.
Those stuck in traffic on Abbe Road encouraged police cars to cut in front of them. Some even blocked traffic to clear paths for official vehicles trying to get to LCCC and say a final goodbye to “Kenny.”
The procession was so long that the first car reached Calvary Cemetery on North Ridge Road in Lorain before the last car had left the college.
Velez, 48, was struck and killed Sept. 15 on I-90 in Lakewood during a traffic stop.
Joshua Gaspar, 37, of Columbia Station, has been charged with aggravated vehicular homicide. Court records say he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.
Velez graduated as part of the 118th academy class for the Ohio State Highway Patrol and served 30 years as a state trooper. He began at the Canfield patrol post before spending most of his career in Elyria. He also spent time on the License and Commercial Standards Motor Vehicle Inspection Team in Seville, and had just recently transferred to the Cleveland post.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Amherst News-Times State trooper Kenneth Velez, 48, was honored Thursday at Lorain County Community College. He was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery in Lorain.