Champaign, IL – University of Illinois Police Department (UIPD) Lieutenant Aaron Landers died on Aug. 23 after he was hit by an alleged drunk driver while riding his motorcycle.
Lt. Landers, 50, was off duty and riding his motorcycle near Prospect Avenue and Church Street at approximately 6 p.m. on Aug. 22 when he became involved in a five-vehicle pileup, The News-Gazette reported.
Investigators said 25-year-old Logan Freed was westbound on Church Street and ran a traffic light, hitting a vehicle that was traveling northbound on Prospect.
Freed slammed into the vehicle with such force, it was shoved into the southbound lane, where it collided with Lt. Landers’ motorcycle, The News-Gazette reported.
The crash ultimately involved five vehicles.
Lt. Landers was the only one injured in the collision.
He was rushed to Carle Foundation Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries at 3:11 a.m. the following day, The News-Gazette reported.
The Champaign County Coroner concluded he died from multiple blunt-force injuries caused by the crash, the UIPD said in a press release.
Freed was arrested on charges of aggravated driving under the influence and failure to have valid automobile insurance and was booked into the Champaign County Satellite Jail.
The Illinois State Police are assisting the Champaign Police Department (CPD) with the ongoing investigation, The News-Gazette reported.
A procession of law enforcement officers escorted Lt. Landers’ body from the hospital to a funeral home in Urbana at approximately 5:30 a.m. on Monday.
“We draped his casket with a flag,” Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup told The News-Gazette.
The UIPD led the escort and the agency’s honor guard assisted with moving the fallen lieutenant’s body into the funeral home.
Lt. Landers, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, was the son of an Effingham police officer, according to The News-Gazette.
He served in many roles during his 24-year career with the UIPD, to include commanding the agency’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team and serving as a SWAT team member and field training officer.
Lt. Landers was also a member of the bicycle patrol.
Over the course of the past year, he helped developed the protocol for the UIPD’s newly-established Community Outreach and Support Team, which aims to combine the skills of law enforcement officers with those of clinical social workers, The News-Gazette reported.
UIPD Chief Alice Cary specifically chose him to head up the team due in part to his work as a crisis-intervention instructor and his master’s degree in social work, according to the paper.
Lt. Landers received multiple awards during his career, including the excellence in community policing award, two life-saving awards, and the director of public safety recognition award, the UIPD said.
“Lt. Landers was extremely passionate about his work,” Chief Cary said in the agency’s press release. “You could see that in everything he did, in how he interacted with people, and in the genuine relationships he was able to build. He cared deeply about serving the community.”
“What he did went beyond traditional police work,” she added. “He was interested in the total well-being of the people he helped, in terms of their mental wellness and making sure they had to resources they need to be successful. He also cared deeply about his coworkers and other law enforcement officers. He wanted to make sure that they had the support they needed both in their professional and personal lives.”
Lt. Landers leaves behind his wife, Dee, and his children, Kitty and Alex, according to a fundraising campaign established to help his family in the wake of their loss.
The fund has raised over $15,700 so far.
Lt. Landers was laid to rest on Aug. 31, WCIA reported.
Please be aware the United States flag will continue to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Tue 8/31 in honor & remembrance of Lt. Aaron Landers of the University of Illinois Police Department. pic.twitter.com/NYUgIDfoFY
— Bartlett IL PD (@bartlettpd) August 30, 2021
Today we lay to rest Lt. Aaron Landers, who passed away unexpectedly last week. Last year, he gave us a glimpse into who he is as part of a series of staff vignettes we did. Policing "has been the only thing I ever wanted to do," he said.
— U of I Police (@UIPD) August 31, 2021
A memorial grows outside the University of Illinois Police Station. Lt. Aaron Landers died in an off-duty crash that happened on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/MUXyfmIRuD
— Caryn Eisert (@CarynEisert) August 25, 2021
Flags have been lowered across the state in memory of Lt. Aaron Landers of the University of Illinois Police Department. pic.twitter.com/658aJIqPTx
— Geneva IL (@CityofGeneva) August 31, 2021
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of University of Illinois Police Department Lieutenant Aaron Landers, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.