COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Columbus Police Mounted Patrol Unit held a memorial service for one of their own Friday. Willie, a Saddlebred horse and 10-year veteran of the police force, died last week after surgery to remove a large tumor.
There were bagpipes, a police honor guard and mounted units from around the state who came to pay their respects.
It was an emotional farewell for Willie’s partner, Officer John Shoopman.
“I just can’t say how much he meant to me,” Shoopman said in his remarks.”Willie my friend, my partner – run free boy, run free.”
Willie was considered the strongest horse in the Columbus Police Mounted Unit and one of the most popular with the public.
Shoopman says he and Willie had developed a connection with one another, a trusting relationship that was critical at times in big crowds and protests. “Even if he didn’t like it, he would still move on and be brave enough to trust me that this is not going to be bad,” Shoopman said.
Shoopman’s wife, Regina, started a part-time mounted unit at Ohio State University police where she works as a police officer. Regina Shoopman fought back tears during the service.
“You build such a relationship with them because you’re with them non-stop,” Shoopman said. “Whether it’s the horses here at the city, my personal horses at home, John’s personal horses at home, it’s our life.”
John Shoopman says he will eventually train with and partner with a new horse. But, he says, each relationship is unique and it will never be the same as it was with Willie.