Family, friends release balloons in memory of Deputy Carl Koontz

Honoring Carl Koontz

Deputy Koontz remembered

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KOKOMO, Ind. (WTHR) - It's been exactly one year since Howard County Sheriff's Deputy Carl Koontz was killed in the line of duty.

He and another deputy were serving a warrant when the suspect opened fire, shooting both officers. The other deputy survived.

On Monday evening, family and friends joined at the cemetery where Koontz was laid to rest. They released balloons in his honor.

Past the massive garrison flag. Past the rows of headstones. To the place where pain and pride live.

Kassie Koontz talked to hundreds who had gathered graveside.

"Today, a year ago, tragedy struck our community. I lost my best friend, my husband. Noah lost his father."

And the community lost respected police officer Carl Koontz. He and another deputy were shot serving a drug warrant. Deputy Buckley survived.

"Carl later passed away of a gunshot wound to the upper thigh," his widow said. Then a long pause to gather her emotions. "The last year has been rough."

Kassie thanked everyone for their support. "I had to learn to live without my other half. I became a widow. I had to move forward on days that I did not want to. But I continue to move forward to honor Carl."

Hundreds held, then set free blue balloons honoring the thin blue line deputy Koontz helped hold.

Many balloons contained messages bound for wherever the winds carry them, messages that tell the deputy's story.

As Dawn Stoerger readied the balloons for their flight, she said "and if they find them to write a little note back to Noah" so the son knows his father touched many.

At Northwestern schools, where deputy Koontz once served as resource officer, student Shawn Rittenour said "There needed to be an honor done for him." Rittenour conceived a memorial plaza outside the school, a memorial to Koontz, as his Eagle Scout project.

Koontz's colleague, Deputy Justin Markley, told a crowd at the school of "a year of heartache, a year of tragedy."

"I remember there was a death grip on that gurney from my hand," Markley said of the night of the tragedy. "I did not want to let go and I told them right then and there I would not leave his side."

Earlier Monday at the Statehouse, lawmakers paid their respects to Deputy Koontz. Kassie joined lawmakers on the House Floor for a moment of silence and watched as they unanimously passed a house resolution to show their support.