Two small Wisconsin towns said goodbye Saturday to two police officers killed in the line of duty last weekend.
Mourners, including Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, gathered at Cameron High School for a joint service for Cameron officer Hunter Scheel, 23, and Chetek officer Emily Breidenbach, 32.
“Last Saturday was the worst day of my life,” said Cody Kargus, senior pastor at Maranatha Evangelical Free Church and president of the Law Enforcement Foundation of Barron County. “I lost my two friends, and today is hard, it is hard for all of us.”
Cameron Police Chief Adam Steffan said Scheel and Breidenbach acted heroically during the traffic stop that turned deadly on April 8. The officers stopped Glenn Douglas Perry, 50, “based on a warrant and to check the welfare of the driver,” after someone reported “concerning behavior.”
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Scheel and Breidenbach were pronounced dead at the scene. Perry was taken to a hospital and later died.
“I was blessed with the privilege of leading Hunter and I was gifted with a friendship from Emily,” Steffan said. “Hunter's infinite smile and unwavering kindness and loyalty, along with Emily's outgoing personality and addictive laugh will always be with us. They perform their jobs with dignity, respect and professionalism.”
Earlier in the day, light rain from dreary, gray skies fell on the parking lot outside the gym as mourners lined up for the officers’ visitation.
“My best friend, his grandson was Hunter,” said Robert Gonzales, who attended the visitation with his wife Traci. “You don't expect this in a small community, you know … such a loss.”
The services drew law enforcement and military personnel from across the country, including Kyle Shimniok, who served with Scheel in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
“I was expecting a lot of people but I wasn't expecting police departments from as far as Chicago and even further out … to come pay their respects so this is a lot more than I thought there would be. It’s great to see that,” he said.
The officers’ families appreciated the outpouring of support.
“Every single person here today makes my heart ache just a little less knowing that both Hunter and Emily walked out of their front doors every single day into the world where they were so loved and supported by thousands of people,” said Audrey Scheel, Hunter Scheel’s sister.
“There is darkness and there always will be,” said Mike Breidenbach, Emily Breidenbach’s brother. “When that darkness comes to call, I can thank God that there are such truly special men and women like Emily and Hunter, willing to stand … willing to stand in the way and fight like absolute beasts for every one of us.”
Following the service, a procession of seemingly countless law enforcement vehicles from near and far took the fallen officers to Chetek. At one point, the procession stretched for 12 miles.
Officer Amanda Meeuwsen from the Brillion Police Department south of Green Bay was part of the procession. She said it’s been a very difficult week for her.
“Everything, all emotions from ever feeling the need just basically feeling the need to be here and to just support in any way that I can. And I was able to come and represent my department. So that's a huge deal.”
For many in law enforcement, the incident highlighted the dangers of their service. The chiefs in Chetek and Cameron now face the challenge of leading their departments through their darkest time.
Correction (April 17, 2023): A previous version of this story had an incorrect age for Emily Breidenbach. It also had the wrong first name for the person stopped by the officers. The above version is correct.