An outpouring of public support from a half a world away is centered in Nebraska Tuesday where the community of Omaha police officer Kerrie Orozco is putting their loved one to rest after she was killed in the line of duty hours before she was supposed to go on maternity leave.
Thousands of notes of condolences from as far away as Europe have flooded into the Omaha Police Department via social media as family, friends and colleagues prepare to say goodbye to 29-year-old Orozco at her funeral Tuesday. Flags will fly at half-staff throughout Nebraska and in Iowa, Orozco’s home state, to honor the day.
A seven-year veteran of the force, Orozco had put off taking maternity leave until her premature baby was healthy enough to come home from the hospital. But hours before her long-awaited time off work, Orozco went to serve a felony arrest warrant on Marcus Wheeler, a 26-year-old identified by police as a “convicted felon and a known gang member,” when a gunfight ensued. Both Orozco and Wheeler were hit. Paramedics rushed them to the hospital, but neither survived.
In a poem posted onto the Omaha Police Department, the officer who rode in the ambulance with Orozco describes the 3-minute ride rushing the new mom to the hospital as one “full of heartache and grief.”
“I just wanted friends and family to know that she was surrounded by love in her final moments,” officer Chad Schroeder wrote in the message accompanying the poem. The post has received some 3.5 million views on Facebook, and counting, as of Tuesday morning.
Orozco’s fellow members of the city’s gang unit that she had served with since 2012 will be honorary pallbearers at her funeral Tuesday. Other police officers on the force plan to all wear white carnations tinged with red – donated by a local flower store. The flowers will be worn upside down and below the officers’ badges, NBC News reports, a nod of respect to Orozco.
NBC News contributed to this report