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Yesterday we buried one of our fallen. Hundreds of law enforcement officers, fire, and EMS personnel showed up to the funeral service of a fallen Englewood Police Officer Friday. Officer Jeremy Bitner was laid to rest at Fort Logan National Cemetery, but not before a posthumous promotion to the rank of detective and remembered as a humble public servant by family and friends.
Ofc Bitner died Monday after police say Conner Donohue, 20, drove drunk and hit him and another man on the side of the road while Bitner was questioning the man during a traffic stop. Police cars lined up in the parking lot of the Denver First Church of the Nazarene Friday. It was standing room only inside. "He would always, and I mean always, refer to us as sir," Collins said. "Jeremy served this organization and the Englewood community with dignity and honor."
Ever respectful toward those in command, Collins knew Ofc Bitner had been working toward the rank of detective. And on Friday, Chief Collins respected Ofc Bitner in return. "I hereby appoint Jeremy Bitner to the position of detective," he said. "Effective immediately. Well done Jeremy." Collins then presented a detective's badge to Jeremy Bitner's widow, Tina.
Tina remembered 17 years with her husband, after meeting him first in Germany. They married in October of 2000. The 39-year-old was a decorated officer who also served in Bosnia for the U.S. Army. He is also survived by two children. "Jeremy. I will miss you," Tina Bitner said. "I will take care of our children while you are looking down on me, and I will love you forever."
Eight-year-old Oliver Orton stood at attention just after 3:30 p.m. Friday, saluting the passing funeral procession of fallen Englewood police officer and Army veteran Jeremy Bitner. Dressed in his Cub Scout uniform and clutching a tiny American flag outside of Fort Logan National Cemetery, Oliver was one of many scouts and community members lining Sheridan Street to honor Ofc Bitner. "We want our scouts to understand what police officers put on the line," said Eric Orton, Oliver's father and Cub Scout den leader. "(We're here) to show our respect for the officer and his family."
Fire rescue, search and rescue, police and Sherriff’s vehicles lined the streets and parking lot around First Church of the Nazarene, where Ofc Bitner's private memorial service was held Friday morning. Neighbors and local residents like Orton and Lucy Santiago gathered on the sidewalk to view the procession and show their respect.
Santiago, an Englewood resident, said her son Stephen is a police officer in California. He also once served as an officer in Jefferson County. Santiago said that her son just called her on Sunday saying he was almost struck by a motorist on Saturday night in a situation similar to Ofc Bitner's. "It's just so close to home," she said. "Every time a police officer was killed, he (Stephen) would be here," she added. "I told him I would be standing here to show the same respect he would if he were here."
For a community of about 30,000 people with a police department of 70, Englewood Police Chief John Collins said, at a Tuesday news conference, Ofc Bitner's death was like losing a family member. Ofc Bitner served as an Englewood officer since 2004 after six months as an Elbert County sheriff's deputy. During his seven years at Englewood, he received medals for gallantry, was a SWAT officer, field training officer, voice-stress examiner and an instructor in the department's Citizens Academy.
In a reflection posted on the online Officer Down Memorial Page, Englewood Police Officer Brian Taylor wrote about Ofc Bitner's character and sense of humor. "I wish you could see how very much you affected everyone here, every time someone tells a story about you it ends with everyone laughing," Taylor wrote. "Your sense of humor brought so much happiness's to this place. I wish everyone could know the 'real Jeremy', certainly not that serious looking guy in the picture." " We all will get through this but Englewood will never be the same without you."
Memorial donations are asked to go to:
The Jeremy Bitner Memorial Fund c/o BellCo Credit Union, P.O. Box 17000, Denver, CO, 80217.