- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

LIGONIER, Pa. (AP) - Emergency responders, Army reservists and law enforcement officials across the state paid tribute Friday to a police officer killed in the line of duty, remembering him as a joyful man enamored with public service and his job in particular.

Richard Champion, an Army reservist who had worked part time as an officer in Perryopolis for eight months, died Sunday afternoon after his cruiser crashed into an SUV and caught fire on Route 51. Police have said the SUV driver turned in front of Champion, who was trying to catch up to a suspected speeder. The driver remains hospitalized, and the crash is still under investigation.

Friday’s 40-minute funeral service was held at Holy Trinity Church in his hometown of Ligonier, about 45 miles east of Pittsburgh. A private burial followed at Snow Ball Hill Cemetery on Route 381 in Cook.

The 35-year-old officer leaves behind a wife, Dawn, and 16-month-old son, Tanner.

Perryopolis police asked state Trooper Stephen Limani, the spokesman for the nearby barracks, to read a statement on their behalf.

“He was an Army veteran who protected our nation and a police officer shielding our neighborhoods. Now he’s watching over all of us from above,” Limani read. “He greeted every day and every face with a smile and a hello, and even though today is filled with tears and goodbyes, we will never forget Officer Champion.”

Police officers from around the state formed a two-column honor guard as a white hearse led a procession of emergency vehicles to and from the church. About 150 emergency responders and Army reservists paid tribute to Champion along with his friends and family.

An officer from the Pittsburgh suburb of Monroeville sang “Amazing Grace” and the Lord’s Prayer, and the church’s pastor, the Rev. Anthony Ditto, eulogized Champion as living a life of “costly grace.”

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