Thousands pay tribute to Connecticut state trooper killed during highway traffic stop

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Thousands of people including police officers from throughout the Northeast and beyond gathered Wednesday for the funeral of a Connecticut state trooper killed by a hit-and-run driver during a traffic stop last week.

Trooper First Class Aaron Pelletier, 34, was remembered as a dedicated public servant and loving husband and father of two young boys.

“He was a man of integrity and honor, and I will make sure our children always know those traits definitely came from him,” his wife, Dominique, said in a tearful speech. “To my honey, you weren’t just my husband. You were my home. You were my heart. You were my safe place and my provider. My best friend. My secret keeper. My favorite gossiper.

“The light in our smiles will be forever dimmed and the thought of this world without that laugh seems unimaginable but has already become real,” she said. “I promise to keep you alive in our home, in our heart and in our boys’ memories forever. I love you, and I miss you.”

Wednesday morning started with a 20-mile (32-kilometer) procession from a funeral home in Southington to the amphitheater in Hartford where the service was held, with dozens of police motorcycles and vehicles escorting a hearse carrying Pelletier’s casket. Fire ladder trucks hoisted American flags along the route.

A bagpipe and drum band played at the service, which also was attended by Gov. Ned Lamont and other state leaders.

Pelletier, a nine-year veteran of the force stationed in Hartford, was working overtime on a traffic enforcement detail on May 30 when he pulled over a driver not wearing a seat belt on Interstate 84 eastbound in Southington. As he was talking to the driver, a pickup truck entered the right shoulder and struck Pelletier’s cruiser, Pelletier and the stopped vehicle before driving off.

The pickup driver, Alex Oyola-Sanchez, was arrested several towns away on I-84, state police said. He was charged with second-degree manslaughter, operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs and several other crimes. The public defenders’ office in New Britain, which is representing him, did not immediately return a message Wednesday.

Pelletier, a Southington native, became the 26th Connecticut trooper to die in the line of duty since the agency was founded in 1903. His police dog, Roso, was in the back of his cruiser at the time but wasn’t seriously hurt.

At the funeral, the state police commander, Col. Daniel Loughman, posthumously awarded Pelletier two medals, including the state police medal of honor and a lifesaving medal. A week before his death, Pelletier helped save a motorcyclist’s life by applying tourniquets to the person’s arms after an accident, Loughman said.

“It was clear to me and everyone that worked with him that he truly loved being a Connecticut state trooper,” Loughman said. “For nine years, he demonstrated nothing but commitment to duty.”

A GoFundMe page for Pelletier’s family had raised more than $525,000 as of Wednesday.

A private burial at a cemetery in Southington followed the funeral.

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