By Everett Bang, Shauli Bar-On and Skylar De Paul, Mosaic Staff
Every shade of blue, gray and green was visible as officers from all over California attended a memorial service for San Jose motorcycle Officer Michael Katherman in the SAP Center.
On the morning of June 21, officers from as far as Stockton, Fresno and Los Angeles paid their respects to the San Jose Po-lice Department’s 13th officer to die while on duty.
Katherman, 34, was fatally hit by a minivan on June 14 while riding his motorcycle at the intersection of North 10th and Horning streets in San Jose. No charges have been filed.
“This is the most difficult part about being a police officer,” said Capt. Anthony Ciaburro, a former San Jose cop who now works for East Bay Regional Parks District Police, outside the arena. “The ceremony was moving and honorable.”
San Jose Assistant Chief Dave Knopf opened the memorial with an address about the bond between all officers.
“Although we may wear different patches, we are bound to-gether through service,” Knopf said. “When an officer loses his life in the line of duty, it is not just a loss for the police department, but for the community as well.”
Memorials like this happen too often, Chris Monahan, father of San Jose police Lt. Chris Monahan Jr., said before the ceremony. “One is too much. They really are like a family; they take care of each other. They also hurt because they can see this happening to them.”
“Law enforcement is really like a brother or sisterhood,” Officer Chris Scott of the Berkeley Police Department said. “When one of us falls in live duty, we’re there to support the department, family and to honor their service.”
Tom Katherman, the dead officer’s father, told the gathering about his son’s commitment to serving his community. “Mike loved putting on that uniform,” Katherman said, “and he loved those who served with him.”
In addition to Katherman’s passion for protecting his community, the officer was remembered as a humorous man and a devoted father.
Sgt. John Carr, who worked with Katherman for three years, shared Katherman’s family-man nature with the crowd. Carr often heard Katherman express his need to go home and see his family because they needed him more than the station.
“Mike means so much to me because he represents everything I am trying to become,” Carr said.
The Jumbotrons inside the arena flashed images of Katherman’s life — of his childhood, school experiences, wedding, kids and other life events.
“Whatever he was doing, he wanted April to be a part of it,” said San Jose Chief of Police Eddie Garcia, referring to Katherman’s wife. He went on to describe Katherman as “a hero, but not because he wears a badge, because he was a dad.”
Austin Nielsen, Katherman’s friend since their freshman year of college, read letters from Katherman’s young sons, Jason, 8, and Josh, 10, to their father.
“It’s not fair that you get to be in heaven talking to Bible characters and Abraham Lincoln,” the letter from Jason said.
“We really miss you, and we wish you were here. You really loved the Lord, mom, me, and Jason,” Josh wrote.
Academy peers and San Jose officers shared memories about Katherman’s exceptional motorcycle skills, basketball dunking, and impersonations of colleagues.
Garcia continued the service by sharing his reaction when he first heard the tragic news. “‘Eddie, he’s gone.’ I will never forget those words,” Garcia said.
Michael Whittington, Katherman’s field training partner at the police academy, shared his experiences with “Kat-Man,” as they called him in the academy.
“It’s clear to me, our roles,” Whittington said. “The boy was built for power. He was my superstar, and I was his cheerleader. I got to sit on the bleachers and watch the game of his life, and I am a better man because of it. Thank you for letting me watch the greatest game on earth.”
Throughout the event, almost every speaker touched on Katherman’s fondness for ice cream and sweets. Garcia shared how Katherman’s unit was often known as “90-food-hundred,” rather than 9400, for their noteworthy ice cream socials.
Katherman’s American flag-dressed casket was escorted into the memorial with a bagpipe company, Katherman’s wife and children, and his colleagues in the motorcycle unit.
Detective Chau Pham, who also attended the academy with Katherman led the crowd in cheers.
“Who are we here for?” Pham asked. “Mike!” the crowd shouted, cheering and whistling with passion.
“Make sure it counts now!” Pham said.
Before the ceremony began, a brigade of motorcycles made its way around Santa Clara and Autumn streets, which were partially closed for the memorial.
Two San Jose Fire Department trucks raised their ladders to display a United States flag, under which police motorcyclists zoomed past with their lights flashing. The flags outside of the SAP Center flew at half-staff.
Motorcycles lined the closed portion of South Autumn Street. Officers, captains, sergeants, cadets and volunteers alike began marching into the SAP Center to honor Officer #3900 (his badge number).
The final radio dispatch was read aloud, releasing Katherman, call number 9204, from duty. “9204, no response … a moment of silence … may you rest in peace … your legacy will be carried on through your sons who you loved so dearly. God-speed, 9204.”