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Fire Destroys Slain Officer’s House, Leaving His Family Homeless Just Before Christmas

Makanda, IL – The residence of an Illinois police officer who was killed in the line of duty in August was consumed by fire just before Christmas, leaving his family homeless.

Brooklyn Police Department (BPD) Officer Brian Pierce Jr., 24, was trying to deploy stop sticks on the McKinley Bridge to flatten the tires of a fleeing vehicle at approximately 3 a.m. on Aug. 4 when the suspect slammed into him and drove off into St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at the time.

Officer Pierce lived in Makanda with his parents, Brian and Tammy Pierce, as well as his sister, Alexis Castro, his brother-in-law, and Alexis’ two children, WSIL reported.

Shortly after midnight on Dec. 23, a fire erupted inside the family’s home, Makanda Fire Department (MFD) Chief Jimmy Bilderback told the Belleville News-Democrat.

Officer Pierce’s family members all survived the blaze, but the home and nearly all of their belongings were destroyed.

“Everybody got up and ran out as fast as they could,” Chief Bilderback told the Belleville News-Democrat.

All of Officer Pierce’s keepsakes from his career as a police officer and firefighter were among the items that were lost, Castro said.

In addition to his service with the BPD, Officer Pierce had also been a member of the MFD and the Carbondale Fire Department, the Belleville News-Democrat reported.

Both fire departments responded to the blaze at the fallen officer’s home.

The family told WSIL that investigators believe the blaze was sparked by some type of electrical issue.

“The house was completely gone,” Tammy Pierce said. “Already, we were going to face our first Christmas without him was hard enough. All his belongings are also gone now.”

She said her husband made sure she and the rest of the family got out of the house safely.

“All I really remember is him pushing me out the door, and seeing how lit up the living room was,” she told WSIL.

Castro said the loss of the family home was compounded even further by the loss of her brother.

“It’s traumatic not only waking up to no house, and not being able to be together in a living room, but my brother’s gone too,” she said. “It’s very hard.”

Officer Pierce’s family sought temporary shelter at a local motel, where people have been stopping by with clothing, gift cards, food, and monetary donations, WSIL reported.

“The community has come together for Alexis and the babies,” Tammy told WSIL.

While police were investigating Officer Pierce’s death on Aug. 4, a different driver in a gray Kia Optima crashed through the roadblock they had set up on the bridge, smashing into patrol vehicles and nearly hitting several officers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at the time.

Police opened fire on the driver, who suffered a non-life threatening gunshot wound.

The suspect accused of fatally striking Officer Pierce was later identified as 22-year-old Caleb Campbell, KFVS reported.

Campbell is currently facing charges of reckless homicide, first-degree murder, failure to stop after having an accident involving personal injury or death, failure to report an accident involving personal injury or death, and aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer.

Tammy Pierce told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that her son “was born with a passion to be a police officer.”

“His favorite thing about police work was just being out in the public and stopping crime,” she said. “He was all about that.”

Officer Pierce began his law enforcement career serving as an officer in Spillertown, Illinois, according to the paper.

Two years later, he joined the BPD, where he served for nine months prior to his death, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Officer Pierce made a 100-mile drive from his home in Carbondale to work his night shifts at the BPD, his mother said.

He also served as a lieutenant with the MFD and ran his own company installing floodlights and other equipment for various law enforcement agencies, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

During the day, he worked as an armed security guard for Consume Cannabis Company in Carbondale, according to KSDK.

Tammy Pierce said her son’s love for public service emerged when he was just three years old, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“All he wanted to do was play with the Matchbox police and fire truck cars,” she recalled.

Officer Pierce was a beloved member of the 10-member BPD, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“He’d come to work early because this is what he loved to do,” BPD Captain Antonio White told the paper. “He’d have your back 100 percent.”

“Officer Pierce was a very fine young man. Very energetic,” Capt. White told KMOV. “When he came to work, he put a smile on your face. He’s an officer that you’d love to have on your team, your unit.”

“Words cannot express how proud I was of him,” his father, Brian Pierce Sr., told KSDK. “This is just hard to believe right now. I don’t believe it’s true still. He was actually my hero.”

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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