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Donations top $100,000 after slaying of St. Louis County police officer

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ST. LOUIS • More than $100,000 has poured into the BackStoppers Inc., since St. Louis County police Officer Blake Snyder was killed Thursday in the line of duty. It represents what the organization said Tuesday is the most money it has raised in such a short time.

“We are doing our best to keep up with data entry and acknowledgement of donations,” said Jacki Bettale, the office manager. “We are very grateful for this outpouring of support from the community.”

The nonprofit group provides financial help to families of fallen first responders in the St. Louis area, in part paying off their debts and educating their children. The St. Louis County Police Welfare Association also is handling donations on behalf of Snyder’s family.

The BackStoppers executive director, Ron Battelle, a former county police chief, said the group’s largest annual fundraiser, the Budweiser Guns ’N Hoses boxing event, typically generates $200,000 to $300,000.

The organization has not calculated how much of the money raised in the past few days was earmarked by donors specifically for Snyder’s widow, Elizabeth, and her 2-year-old son.

Meanwhile, funeral planners are arranging the logistics of a service Thursday that is expected to bring a flood of police officers and others.

Pastor Jeff Perry of the St. Louis Family Church said the sanctuary will accommodate about 2,000 people, expected to all be family and police. The public and press are invited to watch on closed-circuit TV screens: about 600 in a church building next door and up to 1,000 outside, between the structures.

Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association,said up to 600 officers are expected from around the country and Canada. He said some West Coast departments sent regrets because they will be occupied with funerals of two officers slain in Palm Springs, Calif.

“Police funerals draw a lot of folks, particularly in this time when law enforcement feels under siege,” Roorda said.

The Affton precinct, where Snyder worked, will be covered by other county officers so his immediate co-workers can attend the service. The St. Louis Area Police Wives will serve dinner at all the department’s precincts Thursday.

Snyder was shot to death while answering a disturbance call Oct. 6. Police said the attacker was shot and wounded by another officer, and has been charged with first-degree murder.

Visitation for Snyder will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Kutis Funeral Home Affton Chapel, 10151 Gravois Road in South County.

The funeral will start at 11 a.m. Thursday at the church, 17458 Chesterfield Airport Road in Chesterfield. Perry guessed it might last two hours.

Julie Lueck, whose husband, Rick Weinhold, had been the most recent county officer killed in the line of duty, plans to attend. Her son, David, who was 8 when his father was shot to death in 2000 and is now a county officer, said he is emotionally torn about whether to attend.

Lueck said she hopes to talk to Snyder’s widow later. “She will triumph,” Leuck said. “It’s not going to be easy, but she can make him proud.”

The funeral procession to the grave in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery, 2308 West Delmar Avenue in Godfrey, will cover about 50 miles and take well over an hour. Officials said firefighters have promised flags on overpasses.

People who want to pay respects along the route are encouraged to seek safe spots to stand.

Remembrance ceremonies included one Monday night in Alton, organized by Snyder’s classmates from the Alton High School class of 2001. Up to 1,000 people attended, in addition to Snyder’s wife, son, parents and brother. Organizers said about $6,000 was raised there.

County police are keeping an updated online map of businesses holding fundraising events.

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Christine Byers is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Law enforcement is a tough and dangerous job that too frequently includes hostility from citizens and protesters or indifference from people who take police protection for granted. It can be easy to overlook the sacrifices that may be required from the families of men and women who pledge to protect and serve. We were reminded of that last week when St. Louis County Police officer Blake Snyder, 33, was tragically shot and killed while answering a disturbance call. While saddened by Snyder's death, our spirits were lifted by the quick and generous response from BackStoppers, Inc., a local nonprofit headed by former St. Louis County police chief Ron Battelle.

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