LOWER BURRELL (KDKA) — It is a solemn weekend in Westmoreland County as family, friends, community members and police from across the area are remembering an officer killed in the line of duty.
Lower Burrell Police Officer Derek Kotecki was shot and killed Wednesday night outside of the Dairy Queen on Greensburg Road. He was an 18-year veteran of the force.
Visitation began Saturday at the Rusiewicz Funeral Home and mourners came from across the area to say goodbye to the fallen officer.
With its lights flashing and its front end draped in with a black ribbon, the police vehicle Officer Kotecki operated every day stood outside the funeral home as a solemn symbol of his service.
The outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming. Leechburg Road was packed with vehicles Saturday evening and the parking lot was filled with mourners.
“The whole community’s really putting forth efforts to help,” said Asst. Chief George Sabulsky, of the Lower Burrell Volunteer Fire Department. “It’s a sad situation for everybody because Derek was a very good person, a very good officer.”
Entire agencies and teams gathered together, including Lower Burrell’s football program, which dedicated its latest victory to their fallen officer.
“We also have a police officer on our coaching staff,” said Kevin Horwatt, Lower Burrell’s football coach. “He’s an officer of New Kensington and he worked with Derek Kotecki with the K-9 unit, so this really hits home for us.”
Police from dozens of municipalities across the region arrived in cruisers and in uniform. Politicians talked to grieving families about the town’s incredible loss.
“We’ve never had anything like this in Lower Burrell before and it strikes home, it’s very personal to me and it’s personal to everybody in this community and to see the outpouring of support everywhere you go is just amazing,” Rep. Jason Altmire said. “We’re not going to forget the sacrifice that he made.”
Visitation hours for Officer Kotecki are scheduled for Sunday as well, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and then also from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A funeral mass will be held Monday morning at 11 a.m. at Mount Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in New Kensington.