Cobb Countians line the streets to remember slain sheriff's deputy

·6 min read

Sep. 15—KENNESAW — For Cobb residents Darell Streefkerk and his wife, Lynn, the killing of Cobb County sheriff's deputies Jonathan Koleski and Marshall Ervin Jr. was personal, though the couple didn't know the two men.

Darell Streefkerk was a 30-year Cobb County police veteran. The couple's youngest son works for the Cobb County Sheriff's Office, while their oldest son is a sheriff's deputy in Etowah County, Alabama. It only made sense, then, as "backers of the blue," that the Streefkerks found a spot along Chastain Road at Busbee Parkway, where Cobb County fire trucks crossed their ladders to hang an American flag in honor of Koleski.

They were joined near the intersection by hundreds of other mourners.

"We're devastated by what happened," Lynn Streefkerk said.

The funeral service for Koleski began at noon Wednesday inside NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, preceded by a visitation. After the service, a procession of hundreds of vehicles took Koleski's coffin through Kennesaw, then up Interstate 575 to the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton. There, Koleski, an Army veteran, was laid to rest.

Officials said the burial featured full military honors, including a 21-gun salute and a "missing man" flyover, when planes fly in a formation with one spot absent to symbolize the absence of the deceased.

The funeral for Ervin is scheduled for Thursday at West Ridge Church in Dallas. A visitation will occur from noon to 2 p.m., followed by a service at 2 p.m.

Koleski's body arrived at NorthStar Church on Wednesday morning, escorted by police. Hundreds of friends, family, law enforcement colleagues and others flocked to the church.

A cavalcade of Atlanta Police Department motorcyclists arrived at the church around 11 a.m. Law enforcement from as far as Liberty County, in southeast Georgia, were in attendance.

Roger Plichta, a retired Cobb County lawyer and special deputy sheriff with the Cobb Sheriff's Office, arrived at the church to pay his respects to Koleski, who he knew.

"Jonathan was just a delightful, delightful human being," Plichta said, choking up as he left the visitation. "Very giving, very strong. ... He made a difference."

Kennesaw resident Miguel Santiago has known Koleski's wife, Amy, for about a decade.

"I happen to be the guy that mows his lawn," Santiago said, en route to the funeral.

While Santiago said he knew Koleski's wife better than the fallen deputy, he had interacted with the deputy before.

"He was quiet, he was very nice and he's gonna be missed by a lot of people," Santiago said.

Tributes from across Georgia

Mourners also lined the streets in Canton, near the cemetery where Koleski was buried.

Among those lined up along Knox Bridge Highway, Chelsi Mayer from Canton brought her two children to pay their respects.

"I'm family of law enforcement, and I was a dispatcher," Mayer said. "We wanted to show our support for Officer Koleski."

Graham Walton came to Canton from Jasper to show his support. He said it was especially important after the challenges officers have faced in the last few years.

"It's been rough for officers," Walton said. "I'm here to show my support, to say, 'I'm still here, I appreciate what you do every day.'"

Heather Vence from Ball Ground said she has many family members and friends in law enforcement.

"It's important to show (law enforcement) we appreciate what they do. They don't get enough support," Vence said.

She added that she came from Woodstock and traveled up I-575, where she saw others waiting for the procession.

"I saw people on all the overpasses. It was very touching," she said.

Darell Streefkerk told the MDJ there is nothing like the community formed by law enforcement officers, as indicated by Wednesday's events to honor Koleski.

"Anytime a tragedy like this happens, the brothers in blue band together," Darell Streefkerk said as he motioned towards Bob Pixler, another retired police officer.

Pixler, who served for three decades in the Los Angeles Police Department, has been a Cobb resident since 1999. Like Streefkerk, he settled along the procession route to honor the deputies who lost their lives, adding that the community formed by law enforcement is unique.

"It's really a brotherhood that probably nobody else experiences," Pixler said.

Pixler said it is easy for most civilians to take police officers for granted when their only interactions may be the result of a traffic stop. However, he noted that the job can turn dangerous, even deadly, at any moment.

'The job he was sworn to do'

According to investigators, Koleski and Ervin were gunned down while serving a failure to appear warrant related to a theft case. The shooting occurred in a quiet west Cobb subdivision, shocking neighbors.

Darell Streefkerk echoed Pixler's sentiment.

"Here's a gentleman that had three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, comes home, gets killed on his own soil, doing the job that he was sworn to do," Streefkerk said of Koleski. "It's sad. It's sad."

AikWah Leow, a spokesperson for Cobb County, came to the crossing of the firetrucks on Chastain Road to honor Koleski and Ervin, deputies she knew personally.

"They did security for our building, and we saw Koleski a lot," Leow said. "He was always smiling and always super polite and he would 'ma'am' us and I'd say, 'Please don't 'ma'am' me,' but he did anyway, because that's the kind of guy he was."

Christie Nerbonne, who retired as a lieutenant over the Crimes Against Children Unit in the Cobb Police Department, also knew Koleski.

After 19 years with the department, she transferred to the Cobb County District Attorney's Office, where she worked as an investigator for 11 years. While there, Nerbonne often encountered Koleski at the county courthouse.

"It's heartbreaking," Nerbonne said. "Just a great guy, always had a smile on his face, always willing to help you, whether we had to bring evidence into a courtroom, bring it into the courthouse, just one of these guys that was always just nice and willing to help you."

Nerbonne and Leow both mentioned it had been more than 20 years since Cobb law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. The last time was July 1999, when Cobb Police SWAT Officer Steve Gilner and Sgt. Steve Reeves were shot and killed during a hostage rescue.

Just over 23 years later, Cobb is mourning the loss of two more men slain while doing their job.

To Leow, Koleski and Ervin were more than just deputies or fellow employees.

"They're family," she said.