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Police Find Workaround When Pandemic Restrictions Block Memorial To Fallen Trooper

By Tom Gantert and Holly Matkin

Mason, MI – Law enforcement officers from across the state of Michigan figured out a way to properly honor fallen Michigan State Trooper Caleb Starr despite pandemic restrictions that prevented the traditional police honors for the funeral.

Trooper Starr died in the line of duty on July 31, three weeks after an alleged drunk driver crashed into him head-on.

The collision occurred at approximately 10 p.m. on July 10, as Trooper Starr was headed eastbound on Grand River Avenue in Boston Township, MLive reported.

A woman in an oncoming vehicle suddenly crossed over the center line into oncoming traffic, and slammed into the 33-year-old trooper head-on, according to the MSP.

Trooper Starr was flown to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, where he remained until he succumbed to his injuries on July 31, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The driver of the vehicle that crashed into him has been identified as 28-year-old Thomasina Shani Jones, WOOD reported.

Jones, who was hospitalized for a period of time after the fatal crash, was arrested at a residence in Ionia County on Monday.

She has been charged with operating while intoxicated, operating while license is suspended, revoked or denied, causing death, operating with a high blood alcohol content level causing death with a prior conviction, and second-degree murder, according to WOOD.

Trooper Starr joined MSP in September of 2018.

He was assigned to the Lakeview post at the time of his death, MLive reported.

His wife, Rachael, is a civilian employee with MSP, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Trooper Starr also leaves behind his two daughters, ages five and two, MLive reported.

Traditionally, funerals for police officers killed in the line of duty draw thousands of attendees, including countless officers from law enforcement agencies all across the state.

In 2015, 3,500 mourners attended the funeral of Michigan State Police Trooper Chad Wolf when he was killed in an on-duty traffic collision, according to the Detroit News.

But Trooper Starr’s funeral arrangements posed a unique challenge under the coronavirus pandemic restrictions enacted by Michigan’s governor.

Under Whitman’s executive order, indoor funerals are limited to 10 people and outdoor services are limited to 100 people, the Lansing State Journal reported.

The Michigan State Police announced that the visitation, memorial service, and burial of Trooper Starr would have to be kept as private events because there was a limit on how many people could attend, according to MLive.

So creative fellow Michigan state troopers figured out a way to properly acknowledge the hero’s passing without breaking any of the rules about gatherings, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Some Michigan state troopers met near a county fairground with a view of the roadway and parked before the funeral services.

Other Michigan State Police vehicles lined the roadways or joined the funeral procession, which included more than 100 police vehicles representing 15 law enforcement agencies, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Members of the Onondaga Fire Department showed their support by raising a large flag near the road the funeral procession was going down.

When the procession approached their parked cars, Michigan State Police troopers got out of their cars in succession and saluted the funeral procession carrying Trooper Starr, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The funeral home provided a live-streamed video of the service online, according to MLive.

Written by
Tom Gantert

Tom Gantert graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Tom started in the newspaper business in 1983. He has worked at the Jackson Citizen Patriot (Michigan), Lansing State Journal (Michigan), Ann Arbor News (Michigan), Vineland Daily-Journal (Michigan), North Hills News Record (Pennsylvania) and USA Today (Virginia). He is also currently the managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Tom is the father of a Michigan State Police trooper.

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Written by Tom Gantert


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