UPDATE: Funeral held for McFarland officer killed in line of duty

UPDATED: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 --- 3:55 p.m.

It was with wet eyes and heavy hearts that a community gathered together today to say goodbye to one of their own.

McFarland Police Officer Ryan Copeland was just 33 when he died in a head on collision last week in the Town of Albion.

Officers from near and far traveled to his hometown of Janesville to say goodbye to him.

December first -- typically this time of year seeing a street lit up in colored lights is ordinary. But today was an extraordinary day in Janesville as police lights flooded the streets while the community and state said goodbye to fallen K-9 unit Officer Ryan Copeland.

Hundreds of squad cars from as far north as Superior, and as far south as Illinois, lined the streets. K-9 officers were front and center.

"We just wanted to come down and show our respects."

Charity Endres had never met Officer Copeland. But said she feels a connection to him anyway.

She breeds and trains German Shepards, and she's also planning on becoming a K-9 unit officer herself someday.
Something she says her son would be proud of her for.

"When I told him why all the police officers were out there he started to cry and said "mommy, I don't want you to become a police officer, unless you're going to die doing something you love." And he's five, so that really shows he understands the importance of these officers out there doing what they're doing," said Endres.

Hoping to one day join the procession of cars accompanying the officer's casket to the cemetery, Endres quietly paid her respects to the man who never knew her, the man she'll never forget.
______________________________________________________

UPDATED: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 --- 10:15 p.m.

Tuesday, departments from across the greater Madison area organized a convoy to honor Copeland.

NBC15 was there, and it was a very emotional day for those who took part, or watched the procession.

It involved officers from seven area departments. They made their way through the streets and communities officer Copeland sought to protect.

From the officers, to the K9's, to everyday citizens, people across southern Wisconsin mourned the loss of Officer Copeland together.

"It's just, it's a huge loss," Karen Minott says. She was paying her respects Tuesday evening. "I got a little teary, because, again, just the show of strength and support for the family and for a fallen officer is phenomenal. "

More than 50 squads started at the Public Safety Building in downtown Madison, then headed to McFarland for a salute to the police station and ended in Janesville, where Copeland was born and where he will be laid to rest.

His chief says Copeland will be missed, because the U.S. Army veteran and member of the green berets, carried over his dedication to his country, to his community.

"He, between his military service and the things he's done here in this community, has probably done more to serve his fellow man and community than I could ever do in a lifetime," McFarland Police Chief Craig Sherven says.

The men and community who now have to say goodbye.

Funeral services are set for next week. Visitation begins Monday, November 30 at Whitcomb-Lynch Funeral Home in Janesville. It continues Tuesday morning at First Lutheran Church, ahead of the funeral.

___________________________________________________________

UPDATED Tuesday, November 24, 2015--- 9:42 p.m.

Officer Ryan Copeland joined the McFarland Police in 2013. One of the people who knew him best there is Chief Craig Shervan.

"...the guy just a kind, gentle spirit. Giving, caring, not a mean bone in his body, and that's what really impressed me about Ryan," said Chief Shervan.

Copeland was the K-9 officer for McFarland, and the chief picked him as the man for the job.

"I selected Ryan even though he wasn't the most senior officer because I knew he was special. I knew that he was going to take that program and make it into something good... and he just literally poured his life and soul into that program," said Chief Shervan.

Officer Copeland was also looked up to by other officers.

"...tactically, procedurally and just his intelligence. All those things made him as if he had been on the job for many, many years. So a lot of people looked up to him as a mentor," said Chief Shervan.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE: Monday, November 23, 2015 --- 10:30 p.m.

McFarland, Wis.--- Officer Ryan Copeland has been with the McFarland Police Department since 2013. Before that, he served 10 years active duty in the United States Army, which included time as a green beret and sniper.

NBC15 sat down with Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney Monday night, who was fighting back tears and says it's not only McFarland and Dane County mourning the loss of an officer.

"Not only is he a hometown hero, but he's a national hero, having been a military officer and deployed on at least two separate occasions before he returned home to serve the citizens of McFarland," Sheriff Mahoney says.

He adds that the healing process began for McFarland officers Monday night; they began working with grieving counselors, peer support deputies from the sheriff's office and others in the field who have dealt with the loss of a fellow officer.

They are there to assess their grief and see if any other therapy is needed after such a great loss.

"(They're there) to identify those risk factors of trauma and are capable of getting the resources necessary to those officers that they're working with to make sure that they're receiving the healing resources that are available in our community," Mahoney says.

Dane County sheriff's deputies will be covering for the McFarland Police Department for the next 24 to 48 hours. Dane County is also looking into what caused the crash.

__________________________________________________________

UPDATED: Monday, Nov. 23, 2015 --- 7:56 p.m.

ALBION, Wis.--- Officials have identified the officer killed in a head-on collision Monday as Ryan P. Copeland of Janesville, a K-9 officer for the department since 2013.

Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney told NBC15 the police dog was not in the vehicle in the time of the crash. He said the officer was en route to pick up the dog when the crash happened.

A news release says a 25-year-old Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources employee was traveling eastbound on CTH N, when she crossed the center line and hit the squad car head-on.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

UPDATED: Monday, Nov. 23, 2015 --- 2:31 p.m.

ALBION, Wis.--- A 33-year-old McFarland police officer was killed in a crash in the Town of Albion Monday.

It happened around noon on County Highway N. Authorities said the officer was pronounced dead at the scene.

Deputies said a 25-year-old Fitchburg woman was traveling eastbound on CTH N, when she crossed the centerline and hit the squad car head-on. The woman is a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources employee and was driving a Ford F250 pick-up truck belonging to the Wisconsin DNR.

The 25-year-old was transported to St. Mary's Hospital in Janesville with minor injuries. The Dane County Sheriff's Office is investigating what caused her to cross the centerline. Officials said citations are pending.

The officer was just starting his shift when the crash occurred, police said. The Dane County Medical Examiner's Office will release the officer's name following an autopsy.

Deputies and detectives are helping the officer's department while his partners and coworkers mourn his death.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Posted Monday, November 23, 2015---1:18 p.m.

ALBION, Wis.---There was a crash involving a squad car in the Town of Albion on County Highway N around 12:30 p.m Monday according to the Dane County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said multiple vehicles were involved.

Stay with NBC15 News and nbc15.com for the very latest.


Photo: Procession to honor Officer Ryan Copeland