Thousands honor fallen Dayton officer at UD Arena

Thousands of people braved sleet and wind to pay respects to slain Dayton Police Detective Jorge Del Rio at a visitation Monday at University of Dayton Arena.

Blue ribbons lined Edwin C. Moses Boulevard and the outside of the arena. The inside was lit up with blue lights, and a line of people wound through the lobby, part of the stands and the arena floor. Del Rio’s open casket, draped with an American flag, was guarded by two police officers.

Tom Umina, who lives and works in Dayton, said he came Monday because of all the police and firefighters who put their lives on the line every day.

“It’s a very little thing I can do to pay my respects, not only to the fallen policeman, but to all the police, to show them that there are a lot of people around that really care — and care for them,” Umina said. “That isn’t always shown or said.”

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Law enforcement from all across the state streamed into the visitation, black bands covering their badges.

Clydette North-Burke, a retired Dayton Police sergeant, paid her respects to Del Rio, her 1989 Dayton Police academy classmate. Even as she stood in a sleet storm outside the arena, North-Burke smiled as she thought of Del Rio.

“To some officers, this is a career, not a job, and that makes the difference,” she said.

Detective Del Rio was shot twice on Nov. 4 wh ile serving a s earch warrant on a suspected drug house. He died Thursday. There will be a public memorial service at noon on Tuesday at UD Arena, followed by a police procession to Tobias Funeral Home in Centerville. The Downtown Dayton Partnership encouraged business owners to pay their respects as the procession passes.

At Monday’s visitation, a slideshow with pictures of Del Rio as a child and later with his family played on the large screens in the arena. Many attendees watched with a smile on their face and some had tears in their eyes.

Next to Del Rio’s casket were large displays of flowers and a blanket with the Bible verse, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

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Local and statewide elected officials are expected to be at the funeral service on Tuesday.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said he will be one of the speakers at the funeral. He also attended the visitation on Monday.

“Everyone who knew (Detective Del Rio) had so much respect for him. This is a difficult job and he did it for a long time; it’s a rare person who can do that,” DeWine said.

Ohio’s U.S. senators praised Del Rio, with Sen. Sherrod Brown pointing to his “legacy of public service” and Sen. Rob Portman calling him a “true hero.” Portman was at the visitation on Monday.

Del Rio’s personnel file with Dayton Police shows year after year of sterling performance appraisals. The major case/drug enforcement unit he was part of was responsible for 173 arrests in 2018, along with seizure of 81 firearms and more than 350 pounds of narcotics.

In his 2018 review, Del Rio was rated as “exceeds standards” in all 16 areas where he was graded, from investigative ability, to teamwork, to productivity. His evaluator’s comments said Del Rio “mentors the less experienced detectives in the bureau” and “routinely takes the lead in complex and dangerous investigations.”

Stephen Grismer, a retired Dayton Police sergeant, said Del Rio worked as a detective in Grismer’s drug enforcement unit in the late 1990s, calling Del Rio “the rock” of that group.

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“When I went to that unit I had 12 years of age and experience on him, but he had been in that role for about five years and he knew far more than I did about street drug activity,” Grismer said. “He was a mentor to me (while) I was his supervisor, if that makes any sense at all.”

Grismer, who is now a trustee of the Dayton Police History Foundation, said Del Rio is the 25th Dayton police officer killed in the line of duty, and he narrowly surpassed Sgt. Lucius Rice as the longest-serving of those officers, at more than 30 years.

“He could have retired five or six years ago, and yet he continued doing the valuable work he did in the community,” Grismer said. “And the community never knew him by name. But they’re certainly going to feel the loss. He can’t be replaced. … He was so incredibly good at what he did.”

Line-of-duty law enforcement deaths are down in the U.S. this year, according to the national Officer Down Memorial Page. Del Rio is the third Ohio law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty this year, following two Cincinnati-area fatalities several months ago.

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State Rep. Phil Plummer, the former Montgomery County Sheriff, said his staff worked with Del Rio on task force projects.

He said law enforcement is a dangerous job, and officers serve as each other’s support system, as a brotherhood.

“We all loved him. He was a great officer,” Plummer said. “He saved a lot of people throughout his career. Hats off to him. It’s a tragedy this happened, but God bless him.”