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Chief reflects on officer's death a year later

Posted at 10:54 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 23:55:06-04
Friday will mark one year since the line-of-duty death of Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco. 
 
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer sat down with KMTV Anchor Jennifer Griswold to talk about the experience and how it has changed his department and the city. 
 
He says parts of the day are very vivid while parts are a blur. He remembers getting the call that an officer had been shot. 
 
"The memories I have of being up at the hospital and talking to Kerrie's mom and husband are something I'll never forget," Chief Schmaderer said as he described what he calls his worst day. 
 
Sgt. Jeff Kopietz also remembers the moments of May 20, 2015. Officer Orozco had arrived on scene at 30th and Martin to provide backup for Kopietz and another officer. 
 
"Everyday I think about what happened that day. Everyday I think about Kerrie coming to help me," Sgt. Kopietz said.
 
Sgt. Kopietz and Marcus Wheeler were exchanging gunfire when Sgt. Kopietz heard a voice behind him say, "I'm hit." He says Wheeler's bullet was likely intended for him but the stray bullet hit Officer Orozco. It hit just above her bulletproof vest. That shot would be deadly.  
 
Sgt. Kopietz says, "There's always going to be that little bit of guilt if I could've handled that problem earlier, she wouldn't have had to be there to help me. But that's the kind of person she was. Anyone in their right mind wouldn't run to gunfire, she did." 
 
He has been sharing his experience and what he has learned from it by speaking to church groups and officers. He says his family has updated their motto to: Never Give Up. Stay Calm. Kerrie On.     
 
Officer Orozco was getting ready to go on maternity leave. Her premature daughter Olivia was still in the hospital. As Olivia got bigger and healthier, Officer Orozco decided to hit the streets and save her time off for when Olivia came home. When she wasn't working as a police officer, Orozco spent time in the community coaching kids. 
 
In an interview by the Omaha Police Department posted on YouTube years ago, Officer Orozco said, "because if we can teach these young kids that just by playing baseball that they can learn there are positive things in life to look forward to then they won't be out there robbing and stealing." 
 
"Just like Kerrie's life represented everything good about the Omaha Police Department, the way this community came out and supported this police department makes me think that Omaha is the most special place around," Chief Schmaderer said. 
 
He said he was overwhelmed by the thousands of people who came out for her funeral procession. He says people continue to "Kerrie On" her legacy.  
 
Sgt. Kopietz told us, "One of the most incredible things is it's a year later and people still reach out. I had a lady come up to me on a call this morning thanking me for my service and that didn't necessarily happen before May 20th of last year." 
 
Chief Schmaderer had this message for the people of Omaha as the anniversary of Officer Orozco's death approaches, "let's remember all the officers that have fallen, let's remember the year anniversary, let's remember the emotions that we felt and let's continue that forward. I still want the community when they see a law enforcement officer, I want them to look at that officer and say there is a piece of Kerrie in that officer."
 
There are tributes planned to mark the one year anniversary of Officer Orozco's death on Friday. Omaha Police will unveil seven life-size statues of hand-painted horses called the "Horses of Honor." Each statue is in remembrance of a fallen Omaha officer. There will be a ceremony at 10 a.m. on Friday at Turner Park in Midtown Crossing. We will cover the event on KMTV Action 3 News and kmtv.com.