More than 1,000 law enforcement officers turned out to honor slain Oakland Police Department Officer Keith S. Konopasek, who was shot July 8, 1995, by a former security guard who claimed the shooting was accidental.
Mayor Elihu Harris and Police Chief Joseph Samuels Jr. joined hundreds of grieving family members and colleagues to remember Konopasek as a devoted officer who joined the force less than a year ago after a stint in the U.S. Army Reserve.
The second Oakland officer to die in the line of duty in 1995, Konopasek, 32, a Fremont resident, was shot while searching a car in front of his suspected killer’s home in East Oakland. The Alameda County district attorney charged Clarence Jones, 26, of Oakland with murder of a police officer with a firearm.
At a somber ceremony in Oakland’s Kaiser Convention Center, Konopasek was described as a caring family man and a loving fiance whose determination to become a police officer propelled him to finish third in his graduating class at the Oakland police academy.
“When we leave here today,” Oakland police Captain Mike Sims said in his eulogy, “let us depart with an uplifted spirit, knowing that in our time lived Keith Konopasek, a good man, a man who realized many of his dreams, a man who made a difference.”
The slaying shocked colleagues and friends of both the victim and the suspect. Konopasek and his fiancee, Belen Jimenez of San Jose, had just completed sending out 200 invitations to their wedding, set for September 9.
Konopasek was described by fellow officers as a diligent worker who could barely contain his excitement at becoming a police officer. His father, Ken Konopasek, said that had always been his son’s dream.
Chief Samuels said the officer’s killing demonstrated the need for citizens to campaign for strong gun control.
“There’s nothing more traumatic than an officer’s death in the line of duty,” Samuels said. “You have to understand we are human. We cry. We bleed. We laugh. We don’t want to be exposed to the type of violence that took place this weekend.”
Wearing white gloves and badges wrapped in black bands of mourning, many officers wiped tears from their eyes as Oakland police officer John Beauchamp sang “The Lord’s Prayer.”
“While dealing with Konopasek’s death may be hard,” Chief Harris told the crowd, “it is a time to be strong. We can’t afford the luxury of anger,” he said. “We need to pull together.”
Because the officer’s name was difficult to pronounce, some of Konopasek’s colleagues gave him the nickname “Big Red” in reference to his red hair. Others called him “Paper or Plastic” because he had worked for 13 years at a grocery store in Pleasanton, working his way up from bagger to assistant manager.
Konopasek is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Ken Konopasek of Rancho Palos Verdes; two sisters, Kari Konopasek and Kristy Mueller; and fiancee Belen Jimenez of San Jose.
The family requested that donations in memory of Keith Konopasek be made to the Oakland Police Emergency Net, 717 Washington St., Oakland, CA 94607.