Just after 12:15 p.m. today, family members, friends, colleagues, members of the public and community leaders gathered at Carthage College to lay Racine Police Officer John Hetland to rest as a bagpipe outfit solemnly played a haunting rendition of “Amazing Grace” after the officer’s funeral.
Hetland, a 24-year Racine Police Department veteran, was shot and killed the night of June 17 at Teezers Bar and Grill while trying to stop an armed robbery. Although he was off-duty, his death is considered a line-of-duty fatality because he was performing actions consistent with his police duties. He was the first Racine Police officer killed in the line of duty in more than four decades.
As the bagpipers played, hundreds of officers from various agencies and members of the public were lined up along the lakefront outside the A. F. Seibert Chapel at Carthage. A group of six Racine Police officers carried Hetland’s casket, draped in an American flag, out as the rest of the officers stoically saluted.
All present stood in silence for about five minutes until a line of seven riflemen gave Hetland a 21-gun salute and a bugler performed “Taps,” a piece traditionally played at military and law enforcement funerals.
After officers folded a flag and presented it to Hetland’s family, they put the officer’s casket into a hearse and Flight for Life performed a flyover. Police then performed a last call for the officer, broadcast over the area police scanner.
“John, your watch has ended,” the dispatcher said. “We will take it from here. Godspeed.”
The funeral procession is anticipated to leave the chapel at 2:15 p.m. to travel to Hetland’s final resting place at West Lawn Cemetery, located at the northwest corner of Washington Avenue (Highway 20) and 90th Street in Mount Pleasant.