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State

Illinois State Trooper killed during snowstorm remembered as fun-loving friend, humble hero

Scores of uniformed police officers and hundreds of mourners packed the chapel at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington on Friday morning to say farewell to Illinois State Trooper Christopher Lambert, who died after being struck by a car last week while helping victims of a crash.

Lambert, 34, had just finished his shift and was on his way home to Highland Park on Saturday when he stopped during a snowstorm to help at a scene of a three-vehicle crash on northbound Interstate 294 near Northbrook.

Lambert was fatally struck while rendering aid, authorities said.

“He saw danger coming, and yet he pulled over, put his vehicle into position and did what the troopers do,” Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz said. “He knowingly, willingly and intentionally put himself in harm’s way.”

A nurse who was on the scene performed CPR on Lambert until paramedics transported him to Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, where he was pronounced dead.

No charges or citations have been announced against the driver whose car hit Lambert.

Lambert’s casket, draped in a white cloth with a gold cross, stood before the altar at the church. On one side was a large photo of a beaming Lambert. On the other was his uniform shirt, crisply folded and framed.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Pastor Chris Hurta told Lambert’s wife, Halley, 14-month-old daughter Delaney and parents James and Martha Lambert. “I have no words. We grieve for you, and our prayer for each of you is that you would find God’s comfort … to lead you and sustain you.”

Mourners who gathered Friday included law enforcement personnel from jurisdictions in Illinois and as far away as California and New Hampshire. Newly sworn-in Gov. J.B. Pritzker also attended, and from the pulpit reflected upon the grief he felt as a child when his father died.

“Let me try, however inadvertently and inadequately, to ease a small part of this burden for you,” he told Lambert’s wife and daughter. “There will come a day when the memory of Chris will be like a cool breeze in summer, comforting and gentle … You will always mourn his death, but this agony fades. What is left are the most perfect memories – the best parts of the person that you loved.”

Lambert, a native of Dayton, Ohio, was an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Haiti. He had been with Illinois State Police since 2013 and worked in the criminal patrol division.

He was also a member of the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group, a task force of officers from different departments who focus on illicit drugs, gangs and weapons. The work includes conducting house raids and drug seizures.

Libertyville Police Officer Brandon Bernabei, who worked with Lambert on the task force, described his friend as a fun-loving colleague who went by the nickname “Lam Lam,” and whose enthusiasm for even unglamorous assignments was striking.

“[There was] a time we needed volunteers to dress up in camouflage and face paint to go sit on a house in 95 degree weather,” he said. “I’ve never seen someone so excited to sweat profusely in a cloud of mosquitoes, but there was Lam Lam.”

The last Illinois State Police trooper killed while on duty was Ryan Albin, who died in June 2017 following a downstate highway crash involving a tractor-trailer near a construction zone.

An earlier death came March 28, 2013, when Trooper James Sauter, 28, of Vernon Hills, was killed while on-duty on I-294 near Northbrook. His car had been parked on the shoulder of the southbound lanes when the driver of a tractor-trailer slammed into it, authorities said.

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©2019 the Chicago Tribune

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