Illinois family, communities mourn loss of beloved police officer

Updated: Jun 7



Officer Chris Oberheim is survived by his wife and four daughters



Chris Oberheim, a highly respected overnight shift patrol officer with 21 years on the Champaign and Decatur police forces, was gunned down the morning of May 19 by a suspect when he went to investigate a domestic incident.

Shock waves have been reverberating throughout the Central Illinois law enforcement family.

Officer Oberheim, 44, is the first Champaign officer killed in the line of duty since 1967—before most current police officers were born.

The law enforcement family has come forward and wrapped its arms around the Oberheim family. This is one of the most glorious demonstrations of God’s love I have ever witnessed.

Officer Oberheim was a member of the Decatur Police Department for eight years before serving 13 years with the Champaign Police Department.

He has remained close with his fellow officers in Decatur, where Officer Oberheim began his career.

During my career as a reporter for daily newspapers, I covered the Decatur Police Department, which has many officers who have remained close with Officer Oberheim. They are hurting over the loss of their fellow officer, friend and leading member of their championship softball team.

There is an expression that we used to hear a lot: “Only the good die young.” I first heard that after President John F. Kennedy was shot to death, when he was 46 years old—two years older than Officer Oberheim.

Chris Oberheim was also a shining star, a man deeply beloved by his family, fellow officers and many with whom he interacted during his life and police career. From all accounts, he was a humble man, not one to seek the spotlight.

In life, he shunned publicity or glory. In death, he will be remembered in ways far beyond his wildest imagination.

Every police officer killed in the line of duty deserves to be honored.

Officer Oberheim was such a tremendous officer and man—with such a wonderful family—that his death will be remembered as a turning point for law enforcement nationwide.

Everyone who attended the funeral knows there was a resolve that was born that day that will not be quenched.

Amber Oberheim, Chris’s wife, delivered a eulogy that was out of this world. When that is released to the public, we will write much more about this eulogy—which sparked two standing ovations—and the plans of this outstanding woman to honor her husband and all law enforcement officers.


War against law enforcement

There have been 143 deaths of police officers in the line of duty this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

That includes 26 by gunfire—about one every six days in America. Two officers were shot to death—Detective Stephen Arnold of Louisiana and Sgt. Dominic Vaca of California—since Officer Oberheim’s death.

The shooting of a police officer is a dagger in the heart of the law enforcement community—and all Americans who believe in the basic principles of law and justice.

We are being conditioned to accept the killing of law enforcement officers as a normal part of American life. That is a deeply troubling development.

Police are increasingly under attack—including regular killings by gunfire—unlike any other time in our nation’s history. It is as if the forces of darkness have declared war against our police.

The cold-blooded murder of Officer Oberheim was a cataclysmic event for the law enforcement community in Central Illinois—and all those whose hearts ache every time we lose a law enforcement officer.

It is a false narrative that police officers are racists who prey on black people. I believe this is an intentional lie, promoted to destroy police departments, and transform America into a chaotic third-world nation that will be unrecognizable.

We are living under a cloud of unjust prejudice against police officers. Police are confronted with violent criminals on a regular basis—including killers, rapists, robbers, burglars and child molesters.

It is amazing how they can deal with so many offenders day in and day out, and mostly demonstrate tremendous restraint. Many officers even show compassion for some of the predators, in addition to their victims.

Officer Oberheim was an officer who would tackle a fleeing suspect, then treat him with genuine concern, according to his fellow officers.

Officers are being killed and attacked, partly because their assailants believe they are doing a special service for humanity by taking out a man or woman in uniform.

A Champaign-based CBS affiliate, WCIA, presented the image of the male suspect as a saint with angel wings—after he murdered Officer Oberheim and attempted to murder Officer Jeffrey Creel. The surviving officer was saved by his protective vest, which was struck by two bullets.

The suspect was shot to death at the scene.

The response from the Central Illinois community to this representation of the killer—who had three prior felony convictions—has been stunning. With advertisers announcing their withdrawal of support, this prominent station might not survive.


Despite propaganda, Americans support police

As a staunch supporter of law enforcement, I have never been prouder of the community where we live. Thousands of area residents turned out to line the streets and overpasses throughout the region to express love and respect for the fallen hero. Expressions of love and respect are displayed on signs and flag posts throughout the region. The Champaign City Council dedicated several blocks of a prominent avenue in honor of the fallen officer.

The response of the law enforcement community throughout the state and nation has also been magnificent. Hundreds of police officers attended the funeral and drove in two processions, on the day of the funeral, and the day Officer Oberheim’s body was transported to the funeral home.

Although there was a time when blatant racism was a way of life in many parts of America, that is no longer a true story. Politicians who promote this narrative ignore the fact that most Americans get along just fine with each other.

From my experience with police officers, I believe police are less likely to be racist than anyone else. If you are a racist, why would you become a police officer? If a police officer expresses his or her racist views in words or actions, that officer will likely become a nationally known villain.

Law enforcement has changed for the better tremendously in many ways, including more stringent qualifications to land a job and better training. Those who have a record of racist views need not apply. Police departments are more sensitive to this issue than most other workplaces.

For example, on the Decatur Police Department, anyone who speaks unfavorably about a particular race—even off duty—faces dismissal. The Department has intentionally built a strong relationship with black leaders, partly to defuse any harmful reaction in the wake of any incident that might spark violence.

So many of the examples of “racist incidents” which have been magnified by the media had no racial markings. If an officer, who happens to be white, shoots a suspect, who happens to be black—after the suspect tries to kill him—why would any reasonable person blame this on racism?

Although police officers undergo stressful situations most of us could not handle, they continue to show up day after day, shift after shift, to serve our communities.

In response to their service, they endure more prejudice—based on lies concocted by politicians and their media—then any other group of Americans.

They should be respected more than those of us who work at safer jobs and professions. Police officers willingly risk their lives for us. That is one of many reasons they deserve our respect, support and prayers.

Because the Oberheim family is strong, and resolved to turn this horrific tragedy into a blessing for all officers, I believe there will be reverberations from this homicide that will help turn this nation back to love and respect for our police officers.

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Hundreds of law enforcement officers from throughout the United States march past the hearse after the funeral of Champaign Police Officer Chris Oberheim. A Decatur native and former patrolman in that Central Illinois city, Officer Oberheim was slain May 19 while rushing to the aid of a fellow officer, who had been wounded.


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