SPILLERTOWN, Ill. (WSIL) -- Former co-workers of officer Brian Pierce Jr. are preparing for his funeral while trying to keep his legacy alive.
Pierce died last Wednesday in the line of duty. Illinois State Police says Pierce was attempting to place spike strips to stop a suspect's car when he was hit and killed by the fleeing vehicle. The suspect in that hit-and-run is still on the run.
Sgt. James Emberton of the Zeigler Police Department met Pierce five years ago when the latter was installing car parts for police vehicles. Emberton says Pierce gained an interest in law enforcement. That interest evolved into enthusiasm, Emberton says, because Pierce came up with ideas that set him apart from other officers.
But Pierce's determination to his job was matched only by his selflessness and drive to help, Emberton says.
"I've seen him take money out of his own pocket to buy someone a soda that was thirsty," Emberton said. "That's the thing that I want to remember. That's the thing I want to see carried on."
In August 2019, Pierce was credited with restarting the Spillertown Police Department after it was dissolved in 2011. Emberton worked as chief beginning in April 2020. Emberton resigned last month.
In January 2021, the department purchased an old, white police cruiser from Zeigler PD which Pierce began working on as a side project. Pierce refurbished the car and even paid for the letters on the car using money out of his own pocket. Once the car was finished, Pierce donated it to the department. The vehicle is a symbol of the legacy he leaves behind.
Now the focus is on keeping the police department going to preserve Pierce's legacy. Emberton says Pierce's death was senseless but finds 'comfort that he passed away doing what he loved'. Emberton says the sense of loss felt in the local police community is 'indescribable'.
"I'm not scared to say that I cried and cried all day," Emberton said. "We're never get over it. We'll never get past it."
Last week, hundreds of first responders observed a procession that took Pierce's body from Madison County to Williamson. According to the Meredith-Waddell Funeral Home in Herrin, Pierce's services will be held at John A. Logan College over August 13th and 14th.
Volunteers are needed help place 2,500 flags prior to those services. Volunteers are asked to meet at the campus Thursday, August 12 at 5pm to help set up flags. People are also invited to help take down the flags on Sunday. T-shirts are also being sold to help pay for funeral costs. For more information email Larra.firstname.lastname@example.org