SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - On Wednesday, San Jose Police will pay tribute to its officers killed in the line of duty. Last June, the department lost 11-year veteran Michael Katherman. The motorcycle officer died after he was struck by a minivan.
Tom Katherman remembers the day he walked into Regional Medical Center in San Jose, June 14 of last year. It was nothing but a sea of officers in blue. It was the day he lost his son Michael.
“It’s as shocking today as it was that day,” said Katherman. “It feels like an eternity since I talked to Mike but it feels like 30 seconds ago I was told he was killed.”
The motorcycle officer was killed in uniform in San Jose after crashing into a mini-van attempting to make a left turn. The driver stayed on scene. The 34-year-old left behind a wife and two young boys.
On Wednesday, Katherman will be among 13 fallen officers honored at police headquarters. According to the Officer Down Memorial page, 144 officers were killed in the line of duty across the country last year. This year, 43 officers have died.
“We are all human beings,” said San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia. “We have families. We have kids. We are trying to do the best we can for them. Mike epitomized all that.”
Katherman's father knows his son's death was an accident. In a strange twist, Tom Katherman said three weeks before his son's death, Michael met a man at a “Coffee with a Cop event,” taking a picture with him with his motorcycle. It turns out that man was the driver who hit Michael.
“We hold no ill will towards him or his family,” said Katherman. “This mistake was an accident. It was just that we wanted to extend him the grace that God extends to us every day.”
Katherman took part in the Unity Tour last year riding from New Jersey to Washington D.C. to honor fallen San Jose Police Officer Michael Johnson. This year officers will ride in his honor. Tom Katherman is comforted knowing his son died protecting San Jose.
“Unfortunately it did not end up the way we all hoped or would have wanted to but I could not be more proud of my son,” said Tom Katherman.
The service starts tomorrow at 10 a.m. at San Jose Police Headquarters.