COBB COUNTY, Ga — Hundreds of officers from all over the country joined in a somber processional for Deputy Jonathan Koleski, the first of two Cobb officers to be laid to rest after they were both shot to death earlier this week.
Koleski and Deputy Marshall Ervin Jr. were both shot and killed on Sept. 8 as they attempted to execute a warrant in Marietta.
On Wednesday, supporters lined the streets, first responders gathered on highway overpasses and hundreds of officers driving motorcycles and patrol cars drove in formation to escort Koleski’s body from his funeral service at Northstar Church in Kennesaw to the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton Wednesday afternoon where he was laid to rest.
Channel 2′s Michele Newell was at Koleski’s funeral service, where more than 1,000 people filled the church. Koleski’s sisters spoke during the service and shared memories of their brother.
Koleski was described as someone who loved the outdoors, loved animals, was an adventurous foodie and avid runner who loved running 5K races.
“He was and is and always will be my hero,” Megan Barrios said. “His smile was bright. His laugh was contagious.”
David McDowell, Koleski’s father-in-law, said he was also a loving husband.
“Every day that John left for work, he brought my daughter a gift. That says a lot about how much he loved Amy,” McDowell said.
Cobb County Sheriff Craig Owens also spoke about Koleski, calling him family.
“Jonathan was family to all of us,” Owens said. “To the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, who are grieving the loss of their brother and friend.”
Koleski served his country in active duty with three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before joining the sheriff’s office in 2007.
During the service, Koleski’s family thanked everyone for their support. They said they saw complete strangers supporting as they drove to the church this morning.
Newell spoke to Karen Greathouse, a woman who was standing outside the church and was in tears despite not knowing Koleski.
“You just feel everybody’s grief,” Greathouse said. “You feel everybody’s pain. All those officers sanding over there and their families.”
Ervin’s funeral will take place on Thursday at West Ridge Church in Dallas, Georgia. Visitation will be held from noon until 2 p.m., with services to be held immediately after.
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The sheriff’s office is expecting a large community response.
“It’s going to be huge,” said Robert Haley, Executive Director and Founder of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Foundation. “We have met with the families, met with the widows and we have presented each one of them with a $10,000 check.”
Money given immediately to the family was funded by the Cobb County Sheriff’s Foundation general fund. In addition, Haley says the community has donated about $60,000 to the foundation so far.
It is the only organization that authorities want people to donate to.
“Support has been overwhelming from across the nation,” Haley said. “We’re also going to look at setting up a scholarship fund for Deputy Ervin’s two children.”
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Koleski’s family told Channel 2 Action News earlier this week that he was the “pure definition of a hero.”
“I’m heartbroken but at the same time, I’m so proud of him because he’s like the pure definition of a hero in so many different ways, to his siblings, to his mother, to his country, to his wife, to his state. So, just an all-around hero. There’s no better way to describe him,” his mother told Channel 2.
Channel 2 Action News has been in contact with the Ervin family. Ervin’s niece, Brittney Cooper Graves, says the family is not ready to speak publicly, but released a statement:
“We love and miss Marshall so much. He was such a great person, and we are all heartbroken. Please keep his wife and children along with the rest of the family in your prayers. Thank you so much.”
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The Cobb County Sheriff’s office also issued a warning after receiving reports of scammers attempting to steal online donations.
In a tweet, the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office wrote:
“We are receiving reports of scammers attempting to take advantage of this terrible situation. The Cobb County Sheriff’s foundation is our official site to receive donations for the families.”
Channel 2 Consumer Advisor Clark Howard says it’s not uncommon for criminals to take advantage of a tragedy of this magnitude.
“Unfortunately, if you end up giving money to crooks, it’s almost impossible to reclaim that money,” Howard said. “The one exception is if you donated by credit card and later find out you didn’t give to the real purpose or organization you intended. You may well be successful disputing that charge.”
Money raised by the Cobb County Sheriff’s foundation will be split between both families equally. If you’d like to donate to the victims’ families, CLICK HERE.
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