LOWER BURRELL (KDKA) -- It was a sad and moving moment in Lower Burrell Sunday night as the widow and children of a fallen police officer thanked people gathered for a candlelight vigil held in his memory.
Officer Derek Kotecki will be laid to rest Monday morning following a funeral mass. On Sunday, there was a less formal gathering to honor the slain officer.
The lights were flashing on Officer Kotecki's patrol car which was parked in front of the Rusiewicz Funeral Home as hundreds gathered to pay their final respects.
"I am a firefighter, for a long time, so I figured it was important because if I would have passed away he would have been here for me, same thing with anybody," said Craig Eyth, of Lower Burrell. "It's kind of like the code of officers and firefighters, it goes hand in hand."
The Fraternal Order of Police and the Masons also held special services Sunday evening in honor of Officer Kotecki.
"Every day when police officers go to work, they never know what they're going to confront," said Brian Campbell, of the FOP. "Unlike most people that have a job – they understand what they're going to face when they go to work each day – policemen they never know."
That stark reality hit home when Officer Kotecki's family, after meeting so many inside the funeral home during visitation hours, came outside to a sea of candlelight lining Leechburg Road. It was a view of respect and love surrounding the family in a time of need.
"Heartbroken because of the family, but another thing is… he should know how much people cared about him," McKenzie Fox, a resident of Lower Burrell, said. "There's a lot of people that care about him that he probably never knew."
A funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Mount Saint Peter Catholic Church in New Kensington, and as Officer Kotecki is taken to his final resting place, school children will line the streets holding American flags.
for more features.