LOWER BURRELL (KDKA) — The death of Lower Burrell Police Officer Derek Kotecki has left a void in the community.
He was shot and killed while trying to arrest 33-year-old Charlie Post outside the Dairy Queen on Greensburg Road in Lower Burrell on Wednesday.
“He was very special to everybody because of the K-9 that always attracts the children, attracts the community anytime he’s anywhere and he will be dearly missed,” Lower Burrell School District Superintendent Shannon Wagner said.
Kotecki’s two sons attend school in the district.
“Even my own child – we are not law enforcement by any means, but her first response to me last night was, ‘Oh my goodness – what would happen if I lost you or lost daddy?’” Wagner said.
The American flag was flown at half-staff in remembrance of Kotecki. Black ribbons adorned school buses.
Also, local businesses wrote words of sympathy on marquees.
“We love our cops,” Louise West, a school bus driver said. “And it’s sad. It shouldn’t have happened.”
someone set up a Facebook page: “RIP Officer Derek Kotecki” with photos of the officer and his family. A picture taken in August had the caption: “Our last family group photo.”
There were also pictures of Officer Kotecki’s police car and K-9 companion.
“You know, hearing about Officer Kotecki’s children just breaks my heart and I wanted my children to show respect for a man that we’ve lost – he was a good man and deserved honor,” Jessica Festa, of Lower Burrell, said.
Outside of city hall in Lower Burrell, a makeshift memorial is taking shape. Mourners left flowers and other mementos.
“It’s such a tragedy,” Diane Conway said. “I feel bad for his family. He has two sons and a wife. It’s a tragedy.”
So much food was delivered for the officer’s family and fellow officers, a mobile cooling trailer had to be brought in to store it.
“Today, it’s a very solemn day and his family should be supported with prayers and anything we can give them in the community,” Joe Grillo, a Lower Burrell City Councilman, said. “I think it’s phenomenal.”
Kotecki was one week shy of serving 18 years on the police force.