"That's what I am going to miss the most, him being a part of my life."
~Canine Officer Jeff Urkevich
Friends, family, and law enforcement say goodbye to Lincoln Police Officer John Clarke Friday morning.
During a press conference Monday afternoon Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong said K-9 Officer Clarke died.
At 11:00 a.m. Officer John Clarke was working out at a fitness facility when he collapsed. A fitness director and physical therapist rushed to his aid and began CPR.
Officer Clarke was transported to a hospital, where he later died. The actual cause of death is not known at this time.
Officer Clarke is a 21-year veteran of the Lincoln Police Department. He was the head trainer of the department's K9 Unit. Officer Clarke is survived by his wife and three children.
To those who knew Officer Clarke best he was the man always going the extra mile to help out anyone.
"That's what I am going to miss the most, him being a part of my life," Canine Officer Jeff Urkevich said. "You're a better person every time you are with him and every time you talk to him. We are losing one of the greatest people I've ever known and am going to know. I loved him so much and we all did."
Jeff looked up to John from the first day he joined the force. John helped him become a canine handler. He was there the day Jeff met his first dog, Zito, and the day Zito died.
"The dogs knew him. I mean, when John was around, the dogs knew, John's here, uncle John's here. They'd run right up to him. They all loved him," Jeff said.
Now, Jeff is there for the wife and three children John left behind.
"He's family first and foremost, but everybody felt like they were part of his family. This was the guy. He was like my brother, I mean he is my brother," Jeff said.
Jeff and the other canine officers are caring for John's dog, Beersie-Remo, who doesn't know John is gone.
"John took that dog everywhere with him, to work, to play, to home. That bond is just unbreakable. It's kind of sad to know that Remo doesn't know that he is not going to John any more," Jeff said.
As Lincoln Police mourn the loss of a good friend, Jeff can't help but remember one of the last things John said to the team just days before he passed away.
"He just looks at us and goes, 'I just want you all to know that I love you,'" Jeff said. "He kind of leaned back in his chair, big John, and goes, 'I want you guys to really be safe, always be safe and I want you to know, deep down in my heart, I love everyone of you.'"
Chief Peschong said Officer Clarke's dog was scheduled to be retired this fall, under these circumstances the dog will be retired a little early rather than be re-assigned to work with a different officer.
During Officer Clarke's career with LPD, he served as a field training officer, a firearm’s instructor, assisted at police summer camp and coached midget football. He also volunteered during the Special Olympics’ National Games and partook in several Polar Plunges.
He was the head trainer for LPD’s canine unit, serving as a handler for over 15 years. During that time, he worked to have the canines deployed in more tactical situations. He knew their capabilities and wanted to the department to utilize that investment. Each canine and his handler are now members of the SWAT Team and Field Force. He is credited for the dedicated work it took to make the transition a success.
His role of head trainer with the K9 unit was not one he took lightly. He was knowledgeable in all aspects of canine psychology and behavior, canine health and training methods.
Officer Clarke was responsible for the weekly planning and implementation of training. He served as a mentor for new handlers and accompanied them when traveling to select a new canine for the department.