Officers honor fallen brethren

The recent death of two police officers has been felt statewide.

Carlos Puente-Morales
Carlos Puente-Morales

On March 26, Officers Carlos Puente-Morales, 34, and Susan Farrell, 30, died while returning a prisoner from Council Bluffs to Des Moines. At around 12:40 a.m., the two officers’ vehicle collided with a car going the wrong direction on Interstate 80 that did not have its headlights on.

“I would like to say this is going to be the last [funeral], but I don’t think that will be the case,” said Iowa City police Officer Ashten Hayes.

Hayes worked with Farrell while the two were on the police force together in Pleasant Hills, Iowa.

Several local officers attended the funerals, including four officers from the Iowa City police, five University of Iowa police officers, deputies from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and officers from the Coralville police.

Community members, firefighters, and police officers from throughout the country lined the streets and highways in Des Moines for the precession, Hayes said. Farrell’s funeral took place March 30, and Puentes Morales’ funeral was April 1.

“I’m grateful for every day,” Hayes said. “It’s sad that it takes a tragic moment to make you really appreciate the great things in life. You appreciate all the great things in life, but tragic accidents make them seem a little closer.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 11.46.19 PM
Susan Farrell

At a police officer’s funeral, it is common to see law-enforcement agents from all over the country, said Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Langenberg, who has served in the Iowa State Sheriff’s and Deputies Association Honor Guard for six years and was present at both funerals.

“No matter where you’re from — local or from other states — when someone gets hurt or killed, we show up,” he said. “We let each other know that no matter what you need, we’re here for you.”

While Langenberg feels pride and honor to serve as a part of the honor guard, he said it can be difficult emotionally to be so close to the families and loved ones of a fallen officer. Last week’s funerals marked the seventh in which he has served as an honor guard.

“It could have been any of us,” he said. “This wasn’t just an officer. This was a mother, a coworker, a friend, it’s so much more. We get lumped as just being cops, and too many people think we don’t have emotions or feeling.”

At Farrell’s funeral, Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert offered condolences to the families of both officers and asked those in Farrell’s graduating class to stand.

“ ‘They didn’t make it.’ Those are the words we heard, words we will never forget.” Wingert said in his eulogy for Farrell. “Nor should we. It’s one of those ‘do you remember where you were when’ moments that will stay with us forever.”

Wingert, who held back tears like many in attendance, said in his eulogy it’s important for officers to push forward for their fallen classmate and their community.

“Know your hearts are heavy, so is mine,” he said. “This isn’t how your career is supposed to start, this isn’t how you come out of the gate. This is not typical.”

Hayes also said there was a deep sadness among not only the family but the entirety of the room who was there to support those who serve the community.

“I’m proud of the job I have and the job that I do,” Hayes said. “I’m just proud to be a police officer, and knowing I have that blue line support makes it much easier to know I have all those men and women standing behind me.”

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